Fox’s ‘American Idol’ Draws Fewest Viewers Since 2002

“American Idol,” the singing competition show, drew the smallest audience to a season premiere since the program’s initial 2002 start.

“Idol,” which airs on 21st Century Fox Inc.’s Fox TV network, averaged 15 million viewers during last night’s two-hour start of its season, or 16 percent fewer than a year ago, according to Nielsen ratings supplied by networks. Last season’s premier drew 17.9 million viewers, while 9.85 million tuned in for the first-ever episode on June 11, 2002.

Singing competition shows including “The Voice” on Comcast Corp.’s NBC and Fox’s “X-Factor” are putting pressure on “Idol,” Kevin Reilly, chairman of entertainment at Fox, said earlier this week at a TV critics conference in Pasadena, California. “Idol” helped propel Fox to wins in viewers in the 18 to 49 age group for the 8 years through the 2011-2012 season.

“The space is crowded,” Reilly said. “That has certainly led to further stress on ‘Idol,’ and as long as there are this many hours of these competitions, it does fragment the audience a little bit.”

Compared with last season’s premiere, “Idol” also drew 23 percent fewer viewers ages 18 to 49, a group advertisers target. The second night of “Idol’s” 13th season premiere.

Fox, controlled by Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Rupert Murdoch, fell 0.3 percent to $32.53 in New York. The stock increased 56 percent in 2013.

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