“American Idol” makes its season eight debut with a two-day kick-off tonight and tomorrow as Fox begins yet another charge from behind to try to claim ratings victory for the television ratings year. The late rush strategy is not all fueled by Idol this year. “24” bowed for season seven with a two-day, four-hour premiere on Sunday and Monday.
Some TV writers have been trying to build suspense by noting what a strong season CBS is having, while Fox and other nets have been lagging. But let’s look at the Nielsen numbers through 15 weeks of the current season compared to a year ago.
In the coveted 18-49 demo, Fox was sitting at a 2.7 rating and 7 share this season, compared to 3.0/8 a year ago. But CBS was at 2.9/8 after 15 weeks this season, vs. 3.0/8 a year ago. So, Fox has a slightly larger gap to close, but not much.
Fox would have a tougher time snatching the Households crown from CBS, which was at 6.9/11 after 15 weeks this season, vs. 7.0/12 a year ago. Fox was at 4.6/7 this season vs. 5.1/8 a year ago.
For total 2+ audience, CBS was flat at 10,930,000 each year at the 15 week mark. Fox was at 7,430,000 this year, down substantially from 8,220,000 a year ago.
The Super Bowl is on NBC this year, so it won’t be a factor in the ratings battle between CBS and Fox.
RBR/TVBR observation: When will the Idol magic fade? Fox programming execs are no doubt making contingency plans for when that year comes. But if the kick-off of season eight tonight delivers fan excitement, News Corporation likely won’t have to worry about its cash cow going dry in 2009.