‘Dancing’ twirls past ‘American Idol’ for 1st time

Published 9:43 pm Tuesday, April 6, 2010

NEW YORK (AP) — For the first time in the history of the two long-running competitions, ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars” outdrew both editions of Fox’s “American Idol” last week.

Meanwhile, the broadcast networks faced ratings disaster on April Fools’ Day that was no joke.

The Nielsen Co. said Tuesday that nearly 23 million people watched “Dancing” a week ago. An estimated 21.8 million people watched “Idol” on Tuesday and 20.5 million on Wednesday, Nielsen said.

“I chalk it up to the Gosselin effect,” said Don Seaman, a communications analyst for MPG America. Reality TV star Kate Gosselin is in the “Dancing With the Stars” cast this season.

The ABC show has a particularly strong cast, including former “Baywatch” babe Pamela Anderson, astronaut Buzz Aldrin and Olympic gold medal figure skater Evan Lysacek. Producers have reduced the number of contestants this season, and that should enable fans to get to know them better, Seaman said.

In the meantime, it’s shaping up as a weak season for competitors on “Americal Idol,” Seaman said.

After many years during which “American Idol” appeared relatively immune to aging, it may be catching up — and the timing isn’t good, with judge Simon Cowell in his final season.

Fox noted that “American Idol” had a comfortable lead last week over its ABC rival among the 18- to 49-year-old demographic, the audience Fox cares about almost to the exclusion of anything else.

For the full TV season, Nielsen said 60 percent of the “Dancing With the Stars” audience is age 50 or older — ancient to most TV marketers — while 37 percent of the “American Idol” audience fell into that category.

Broadcast networks are also coming to grips with a “freaky Thursday” phenomenon that sent viewership plummeting on what is usually one of its most popular nights.

CBS’ “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” and “The Mentalist” both had the smallest audiences in their series’ history last week, as did ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy,” which dipped under 10 million viewers for the first time. Fox’s “Bones” and CBS’ “Survivor” had their smallest audiences of the season so far, Nielsen said.

The networks theorize the April Fools’ doomsday could be explained by religious holidays for Christians and Jews, along with the onset of good weather after a dreary stretch on the East Coast.

For the week, CBS led with an average of 10.1 million viewers (6.2 rating, 11 share) in prime time. ABC had 8.53 million (5.4, 9) and Fox had an 8.47 average (5.0, 9). NBC had 5.8 million (3.7, 7), the CW had 1.9 million (1.2, 2) and Ion Television had 860,000 (0.6, 1).

Among the Spanish-language networks, Univision led with 3.1 million (1.6, 3), Telemundo had 1.2 million (0.6, 1), Estrella had 270,000 and Azteca had 210,000 (both 0.1, 0).

NBC’s “Nightly News” topped the evening newscasts with an average of 7.8 million viewers (5.2, 11). ABC’s “World News” was second with 7.1 million (4.8, 11), and the “CBS Evening News” had 5.2 million viewers (3.6, 8).

A ratings point represents 1,149,000 households, or 1 percent of the nation’s estimated 114.9 million TV homes. The share is the percentage of in-use televisions tuned to a given show.

For the week of March 29-April 4, the top 10 shows, their networks and viewerships: “Dancing With the Stars,” ABC, 22.97 million; “American Idol” (Tuesday), Fox, 21.85 million; “American Idol” (Wednesday), Fox, 20.49 million; “NCAA Basketball: West Virginia vs. Duke,” CBS, 15.82 million; “Dancing With the Stars Results,” ABC, 14.28 million; “The Mentalist,” CBS, 14.11 million; “CBS NCAA Basketball Bridge,” 14.04 million; “Castle,” ABC, 13.86 million; “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” CBS, 13.35 million; “Undercover Boss,” CBS, 13.18 million.