Ratings: American Idol Premiere Has Biggest Drop Yet, SVU Hits All-Time Low

The Season 11 premiere of American Idol drew 21.9 million total viewers and a 7.4 demo rating, dropping 17 percent and 24 percent from last season’s opener.

The reality juggernaut’s delivery of the coveted 18-to-49 crowd, in particular, falls below its Season 10 average (8.0) and represents the show’s steepest between-seasons decline ever (“topping” a year ago’s drop of 18 percent).

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Nonetheless, as expected and is tradition, Idol‘s rivals took a hit. For one, every sitcom in the 8 and 9 o’clock hours dropped, with NBC newbie Are You There, Chelsea? absorbing the biggest blow. ABC’s Modern Family and Happy Endings, meanwhile, each dipped just a tenth in the demo.

In fact, the only show to gain on Wednesday was ABC’s Revenge at 10 pm, ticking up a tenth in the demo (after the Idol dust has cleared).

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Going hour-by-hour….

8 pm | ABC’s The Middle (8.2 mil/2.6) was down 14 and 10 percent, while Suburgatory (7 mil/2.5) dropped 10 and 14 percent. NBC’s Whitney (4.3 mil/1.6) plunged 26 and 20 percent, while Chelsea (4.3 mil/1.8) fell 31 and 22 percent. One Tree Hill (1.52 mil/0.7) dropped 22 percent in the demo from its season opener.

9 pm | Criminal Minds (12.83 mil/3.2) was the night’s most-watched scripted program, but dipped 6 percent in the demo to hit a season low. ABC’s Modern Family (11.8 mil/5.0) and Happy Endings (6.22 mil/2.9) each dipped just a few percentage points. Harry’s Law (6.4 mil/1.1) plunged 24 percent in total audience, but just a tenth in the demo.

Fun fact: ABC notes that Modern Family delivered its best-ever rating opposite Idol and the best rating for any network program facing a Wednesday Idol premiere. And mind you, that was the “F-word” episode that caused a national stir! < / sarcasm>

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10 pm | CSI led the hour with 11.8 million total viewers and a 2.8 demo rating, slipping 3 percent on both counts. Revenge (7.6 mil/2.5)  — which just got a whole bunch revengier! — held steady in audience and gained a tenth in the demo, while SVU (6.4 mil/1.8) dropped 24 and 10 percent, hitting an all-time low demo rating. Doink, doink.