Networks: Idol is a “schoolyard bully,” “the most impactful show in the history of television”

With American Idol continuing to grow—it has been “improbably … averaging 33.5 million viewers over its first five weeks,” according to the New York Times—other networks are forced to contend with it again.

CBS’ scheduler Kelly Kahl said the show “is a big monolith sitting out there. It’s the ultimate schoolyard bully.” And NBC Universal’s Jeff Zucker said, “I think ‘Idol’ is the most impactful show in the history of television.”

One anonymous network executive told the paper, “we have ‘Idol’ strategy sessions. We realize we’ve got to be very, very practical” as they schedule against the show. The Times notes that “any show introduced on those nights [Tuesdays and Wednesdays] in September is living on borrowed time — and ratings” with Idol showing up in January.

Last year by this point, the show was averaging 31.7 million viewers, and American Idol 4 was averaging 28.3 million viewers, according to the Times. Incidentally, although the series has grown from last year, looking at the ratings from episode-to-episode shows an interesting trend. MJ’s American Idol site compiled the ratings from the audition episodes, and from Jan. 16 to Feb. 7, they fell about 10 million viewers. Of course, that doesn’t take into account competition, growth from year-to-year, or anything else, but it’s a clear illustration of how the show starts strong and then drops off—not that it won’t rebound, and not that anything else reaches its level.

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