NEW YORK – There's a reason why rival television executives not-so-fondly refer to FOX's "American Idol" as the "death star." The talent show, which attracted more than 32 million viewers for each of its audition episodes last week, eclipsed everything in prime-time TV last week and was particularly cruel for the shows unlucky enough to air at the same time, Nielsen Media Research said on Tuesday.
ABC's new comedy "Knights of Prosperity", NBC's critical favorite "Friday Night Lights" and CBS' dead-on-arrival reality show "Armed & Famous" are some of the programs that wilted last week in direct competition with "Idol."
One of the few shows that seemed impervious to the FOX phenomenon was Univision's Spanish-language soap opera, "La Fea Mas Bella," which had more viewers at 8 p.m. Wednesday than anything NBC, ABC or CBS had to offer.
Fox spent much of last fall a distant fourth in the ratings. The new year is quite different: FOX was first last week and, thanks mainly to "Idol," had more than double the average prime-time audience among adults aged 18-to-34 than any other network, Nielsen said.
In another intriguing network competition, NBC's new serial "Heroes" returned from a hiatus last Monday with 14.9 million viewers, beating FOX's "24" in the same time slot. Neither show, however, could beat CBS's "Two and a Half Men" at 9 p.m.
For the week, FOX averaged 12.6 million viewers. CBS had 11.6 million viewers, although its rating and share were higher than FOX, an indication that families and friends were watching "American Idol" together. ABC had 8 million viewers, NBC had 7.7 million, the CW had 3.3 million and the i network had 680,000.
Among the Spanish-language networks, Univision averaged 3.9 million prime-time viewers, Telemundo had 850,000 and TeleFutura had 720,000.
NBC's "Nightly News" won the evening-news ratings race, averaging 9.3 million viewers. ABC's "World News" had 9.1 million viewers and the "CBS Evening News" 7.5 million.
A ratings point represents 1,114,000 households, or 1 percent of the nation's estimated 111.4 million TV homes. The share is the percentage of in-use televisions tuned to a given show.