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American Idol's ratings haven't exactly been what they were in the singing competition's earlier seasons, but it looks like even the rumored feud between Season 12 judges Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey wasn't enough to secure enough viewers to surpass last season's premiere episode. Not only did Season 12's Wednesday night opener fall noticeably short of last year's ratings, but it also holds the title of lowest-rated, least-watch regular-season premiere telecast ever (excluding Season 1). While its viewership was well above that of the average network TV show these days, Idol's premiere was down 19% from last year.
EW says Fox will be issuing the official numbers later this afternoon, but as of right now, it's looking like the singing competition's premiere episode drew 17.8 million viewers with a 6.0 rating among adults 18-49. At a glance, that looks impressive, but by comparison to the 21.93 million viewers that tuned in for Season 11's first audition episode, it's evident that Idol's ratings aren't improving. Quite the opposite, actually, which has been a trend for the series for a while now. Season 10's premiere took in 26.23 million viewers - Season 9: 29.94 million, Season 8: 30.42 million, Season 7: 33.42 million, and so on.
The addition of Keith Urban, Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey to the judges table doesn't appear to have helped the show much in halting its downward ratings trend. While all three judges offered some interesting commentary during last night's auditions - I especially liked Nicki Minaj's comment to one auditioner that it wouldn't be her last chance unless she decided it was - the bickering between Minaj and Carey fell short of entertaining. Sure, it added a bit of drama to judges table, but I thought the tone clashed with the spirit of the show and made the episode feel a bit too much about the judges than it was the contestants.
It was one thing when Paula and Simon went at it when disagreeing over their opinion of a contestant (or how to verbalize that opinion), but it's another to watch two women snipe at each other over nothing. Their squabbling felt less like judges banter and more like two people at a party who are unable to keep from subjecting other people to their personal differences. Some might like the tension, but I'm not sure it works for the Idol tone. We'll have to see how things go in future episodes. In the meantime, ratings are still relatively high for the series, but it seems the recurring trend of lower numbers is persisting for the series.