The Winter Olympics had a couple of big moments on the snow and ice Wednesday, but something just as momentous happened on the nation’s TV screens: NBC’s Olympics coverage became the first program in nearly six years to beat “American Idol” head-to-head in the ratings.
The Olympics averaged 29.4 million viewers for its prime-time block (8-11:17 p.m. ET/PT) Wednesday, an improvement of better than 60 percent over the first Wednesday of the 2006 Winter Olympics (17.9 million). The ratings were driven by coverage of two of the American team’s biggest stars, Lindsey Vonn and Shaun White, winning gold medals.
At 9 o’clock, the Olympics drew 30.1 million viewers to 18.4 million for “American Idol,” marking the first time since spring 2004 that “Idol” has had a smaller audience than a time-slot rival. The adults 18-49 race was a bit closer (9.0 for NBC to 6.9 for FOX), but the Olympics still scored a decisive win.
By comparison, on the comparable night in 2006, “Idol” drew 28.9 million viewers to just 14.3 million for the Winter Olympics and nearly tripled NBC’s 18-49 rating (12.0 to 4.1).
The last time “Idol” was beaten in the 18-49 demo was May 17, 2004 (when a special on that season’s final three lost to “Fear Factor”). In viewers and household ratings, it’s the first “Idol” loss since April 15, 2004, when an episode of “Survivor: All-Stars” beat it across the board (a presidential news conference that week pushed the “Idol” results to a Thursday night).
“Idol” revealed the remainder of its top 24 for the season on Wednesday. When next week’s live performance and results shows begin, it will square off against the Olympic women’s figure skating competition — typically one of the most-watched events of the games — on Tuesday and Thursday.
Photo credits: FOX, Getty Images