In the end, "American Idol" has once again proven to be more popular than the Olympics — particularly among viewers under 50.
Fox’s star search easily defeated NBC’s Thursday coverage of the Vancouver Games among adults 18-49, even though it was the night of the big ladies’ figure skating finale. With all eight hours of "Idol" vs. Olympics competition now over, "Idol" ended up beating the Games by 55 percent in the demo through all of their head-to-head matchups, according to Nielsen.
On Thursday, "Idol" averaged a 6.4/17 in the demo and 17.8 million viewers from 8-9 p.m. The Olympics proved a more popular draw in overall viewership, however: It averaged 19.24 million viewers in the 8 p.m. hour vs. 17.83 million for the Games.
That total viewer victory prompted Dick "Conan Didn’t Take My Advice" Ebersol to issue a statement declaring shock that NBC’s extraordinarily expensive, highly-promoted once-every-four-years event could actually beat an "Idol" results show among viewers over 50.
“I never thought we would have the good fortune to beat the incredibly well-produced and enduring phenomenon of American Idol even once. But twice?," Ebersol said. "At best, I deeply believed we might come a little closer than we did four years ago because the show is such a powerhouse. We are happy to rent ‘Idol’s’ space for a few nights. All the thanks goes to the athletes of the world who give us these great stories to tell. Their stories are the stars of our show — and led to these two ‘miracles’ — just as the young entertainers are the stars of ‘Idol’."
What Ebersol didn’t mention was that Thursday’s figure skating coverage was down 28 percent in the demo and 12 percent in viewers from the similar night in Torino four years ago. No Americans drew medals in the figure skating finale last night.
It was also up to Fox to note that through eight hours of "Idol" vs. Olympics, its Simon-fest has outdrawn Vancouver by 55 percent among adults 18-49 and 6 percent in viewers. The Games did beat "Idol" on one night, prompting premature (and predictable) hand-wringing from some media outlets over the decline of "Idol."
Meanwhile, Fox saw immediate time period improvement at 9 p.m., with "Kitchen Nightmares" (3.5/9) tripling — yes, tripling — last week’s performance of the now-dead "Past Life." (In fairness, "Past Life" had a "Bones" repeat as a lead-in, while "Kitchen" followed "Idol").
CBS’s "Survivor" held up nicely against the Games and "Idol": Its 3.7/10 was down a scant 5 percent from last week despite the monster competition. The tribe has spoken — and the tribe likey.
UPDATED 9:29 AM PST WITH EBERSOL QUOTE