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Expanded 'Idol' rolls again
Morning Ratings Flash - Rick Kissell

By RICK KISSELL - Variety.com

With the hot "American Idol" again accounting for more than 75% of its sked, Fox cruised to victory on Wednesday in key young-adult demos, while the night's top scripted dramas delivered low-range scores.

According to preliminary nationals from Nielsen, "American Idol" averaged roughly a 12.1 rating/31 share in adults 18-49 and 29.4 million viewers overall from 8 to 9:31, dominating in each half-hour. That big score provided nice sampling for a special preview episode of slacker comedy "Free Ride" (roughly 6.1/14 in 18-49, 13.5 million viewers overall), which will regularly air on Sundays.

"Idol" seemed to have an effect on both ABC hit "Lost" (roughly 6.9/16 in 18-49, 16.5 million viewers overall from 9 to 10:03), which hit a firstrun season low, and CBS drama "Criminal Minds" (3.6/9 in 18-49, 12.4 million viewers overall), which posted its second lowest tally.

The Eye was also on the low end but still won as usual at 10 with "CSI: NY" (4.4/12 in 18-49, 13.7 million viewers overall), topping NBC's "Law & Order" (4.0/11 in 18-49, 12.4 million viewers overall) and ABC's "Barbara Walters Oscar Special" (roughly 3.8/10 in 18-49, 9.8 million viewers overall); latter had run on the night of the Academy Awards prior to this year.

From 8 to 9, NBC's "Deal or No Deal" (3.3/9 in 18-49, 10.6 million viewers overall) placed second to "Idol" with the net's best series showing opposite "Idol" in the hour since May 2004.

Preliminary 18-49 averages on the night: Fox, 10.6/27; ABC, 4.3/11; CBS, 3.3/9; NBC, 3.2/8; WB, 1.2/3; UPN, 0.7/3.

In total viewers: Fox, 25.5 million; CBS, 11.1 million; ABC, 10.8 million; NBC, 10.4 million; WB, 3.0 million; UPN, 1.7 million.

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