"American Idol" returned for an 11th season with a two-night premiere earlier this week and the ratings were less than spectacular for the popular FOX talent show.
For the Wednesday night broadcast, "American Idol" garnered an average of 21.6 million viewers and a 7.2 rating among those aged 18 to 49, marking the lowest ratings the show has earned for a premiere episode since its debut in 2002, which attracted about 9.9 million viewers.
For the Thursday night broadcast, the reality talent show earned 17.8 million viewers and a 5.6 rating. The show faced its toughest competition with the CBS comedy "The Big Bang Theory," which earned a 5.2 rating and was watched by 15.7 million viewers on Thursday.
The 2011 season premiere earned a 9.7 rating among adults aged 18 to 49 and was watched by 26.2 million viewers - almost 5 million more than the current 11th season. The second episode of season 10 garnered a total average of 22.8 million viewers and earned a 7.8 rating.
"American Idol" enjoyed its highest ratings between 2005 and 2009, with more than 30 million people tuning in to the season premieres.
Along with decreasing ratings, "Idol" faces some new and fierce competition. NBC's popular singing show, "The Voice," which features superstar judges Adam Levine, Christina Aguilera, Blake Shelton and Cee Lo Green, earned an average total of 11.8 viewers, 6.3 million of which were 18 to 49 for their season premiere. Season 2 debuts on February 5, after the Super Bowl, and is set to air on Monday nights.
It was announced in June 2011 that Steven Tyler would be returning for the 11th season of "American Idol" after making his debut on the show last year. Jennifer Lopez is also back, having signed a one-year contract.
"The first season ... Steven and Jennifer, were still sort of trying to understand what it is that you're looking for initially to go through the process to be the Idol," host Ryan Seacrest explained to ABC News Radio. "But now that they see what the process is, I think, they look at the auditions a little differently. And 'tougher' wouldn't be the word, but they're much more specific in what they want this year."
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