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American Idol Premiere Is Least Watched Since Season 1, Yet Up From Last Year’s Finale

AMERICAN IDOL XIII: Boston Auditions: L-R: Judges Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick, Jr. AMERICAN IDOL XIII begins with a  two-night, four-hour premiere Wednesday, Jan. 15 (8:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) and Thursday, Jan. 16 (8:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. CR: Michael Becker / FOX. © Copyright 2013 FOX Broadcasting Co.

American Idol began its thirteenth season Wednesday with an audience of just around 15 million viewers and a preliminary 4.7 rating among viewers under 50. It was the least-watched Idol premiere since the show's very first episode back in 2002, and the only premiere since then to draw under 20 million viewers. Among viewers under 50, it was the lowest-rated opener in the show's history, lower even than the series premiere. And yet: Despite its age and well-documented behind-the-scenes shakeups, Idol still drew around 5 million more viewers than anything else on TV last night, and its audience was on par with the most recent season premiere of NBC's red-hot The Voice. What's more, Fox notes that, for the first time since 2011, Idol actually went up versus its most recent season finale, indicating, perhaps, that viewers who had given up on the show returned to check out last night's return. The question now is: Will the viewers who returned like what they saw and stay with the show for the next four months?

Photo: Michael Becker/FOX