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'American Idol' premiere on ABC gets a relatively strong 10.3 million viewers

'American Idol' premiere on ABC gets a relatively strong 10.3 million viewers
From left: Lionel Richie, Katy Perry, Ryan Seacrest and Luke Bryan. Richie, Perry and Bryan are the judges on this season of "American Idol." (Eric Liebowitz / ABC)

"American Idol," the singing competition that was a ratings juggernaut for most of the 15 years it aired on Fox, returned Sunday on ABC to 10.3 million viewers, according to Nielsen.

The figure is down 6% compared to the last "Idol" premiere in January 2016 and does not approach the heights of the show's glory days when it was the biggest prime-time hit in all of television. But compared with the diminished ratings of most other network programming due to competition from streaming and on-demand viewing, the first outing for the new "Idol" was relatively strong.

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Overall, "Idol" was the most-watched program of the night. Among viewers in the 18-to-49 age group most important to advertisers, "Idol" scored a 2.3 rating, topping ABC's internal estimate.

ABC staved off a gambit by Fox to counterprogram the "Idol" premiere with a previously unseen 2006 interview with O.J. Simpson, in which Simpson presents a supposedly hypothetical case of how he could have murdered his ex-wife Nicole Brown and her friend Ronald Goldman.

"O.J. Simpson: The Lost Confession?" averaged 4.4 million viewers, airing on Fox directly against "Idol" from 8 to 10 p.m.

Fox dropped "American Idol" after the 2016 season as the series was no longer profitable. ABC picked up the show despite a high price tag for the its talent — singing star Katy Perry is reportedly getting $25 million to serve as a judge on the show — because executives believe the franchise can still draw a mass audience and boost overall viewing of the network.

ABC executives have maintained that the show can turn a profit despite claims by rivals, including Fox, that the costs are too high.

Perry joined a new panel of judges that includes singer-songwriter Lionel Richie and country star Luke Bryan. Ryan Seacrest returned as host. The format of the early episodes, in which the judges travel to several cities to audition singers who are brought to Hollywood to compete in live shows, has not changed.

The "Idol" season premiere gave ABC its largest audience for a series program on Sunday since 2014.

Twitter: @SteveBattaglio

UPDATES:

12:40 p.m.: This article was updated with additional ratings data and details on "American Idol."

This article was originally published at 9:55 a.m.

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