NEW YORK - The revamped “American Idol” had a strong debut on ABC, reaching more than 10 million viewers and shrugging off Fox’s attempt to blunt the premiere’s impact with its special on O.J. Simpson.
The Nielsen company said Monday that the 10.34 million who watched the return of “American Idol” represented ABC’s biggest Sunday night audience with regular series programming since 2012.
Fox’s presentation of a 2006 Simpson interview, during which he speculated about how he might have killed his former wife, was watched by 4.4 million people. That was a distant echo of the sensational interest the Simpson case drew two decades ago.
There was bad blood when Fox ended “American Idol” two years ago, with producers wanting to continue the show. Scheduling the Simpson special at the same time as the “American Idol” debut was widely seen as Fox’s attempt to prevent its former headlining series from getting off to a fast start for ABC.
The “Idol” opening numbers were better than all but two of the telecasts during Fox’s final season of the show, including the Jan. 6, 2016 season opener, which was seen by 11 million people, Nielsen said. The average viewership for Fox’s final season was 9.4 million viewers.
“Idol” was a sensation in the 2000s for Fox, creating stars and drawing viewership numbers that television networks can only dream of these days. One of the stars launched by “Idol,” Kelly Clarkson, is now a panelist on NBC’s “The Voice.” That music competition show began its new season last month with an episode viewed by 12.3 million people.
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