Ratings: Idol Premiere Takes Biggest Drop Yet

The arrival of American Idol‘s much anticipated Season 10 drew 26.2 million total viewers, soundly crushing all comers. (Read Michael Slezak’s recap here.) A mighty haul, it nonetheless represents the hit reality series’ biggest slide between seasons (down 13 percent).

Similarly, Idol‘s 9.7 rating in the 18-to-49 demo marks the show’s lowest-rated premiere since its summer 2002 birth.

That said, Fox notes that Idol‘s opener A) was up 18 percent from the Season 9 finale, and B) bested its combined four network rivals by 47 percent in the demos. Zounds.

Elsewhere on Wednesday night:

* Despite taking a hit from Idol, ABC’s The Middle (8.73 million viewers) and Better With You (6.83 mil) combined for a solid second place in the 8 o’clock hour. Idol alum Paula Abdul’s Live To Dance showed its least amount of life yet, netting just 5.32 million viewers and a fourth-place worthy 1.0 rating.

* Now airing Wednesdays at 9, NBC’s Chase returned to an audience of 4.34 million, down 14 percent from its last Monday outing, while its 1.0 rating was off a full third.

* CBS’s Blue Bloods dominated the 10 o’clock hour in total viewers (12.18 million viewers) but placed third in the demos (with a mere 2.0). SVU drew 6.9 mil/2.2, while ABC’s Off The Map did 5.84 mil/2.1 in its second week.

What did you watch on Wednesday night? And do you expect Idol‘s numbers to improve given the largely positive reviews being received by newcomers Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez?