Viewership for the "American Idol" season premiere declined for the third consecutive year -- to its lowest level since 2004 -- but was still higher than any other prime-time entertainment program this television season.
An average of 29.94 million viewers watched the Jan. 12 two-hour premiere of Fox Broadcasting's singing competition series, 2% less than last year's 30.42 million.
A 90-minute audition episode Wednesday was the third-most-watched prime-time program between Jan. 11 and Sunday with 26.39 million viewers -- 13% fewer than the 30.32 million who tuned in for the two-hour audition program shown on the corresponding Wednesday last season.
Two NFL football telecasts helped CBS average 16.36 million viewers for its prime-time programming, the highest weekly average for any network this season, according to figures released Wednesday by the Nielsen Co.
CBS' coverage of the Indianapolis Colts' 20-3 victory over the Baltimore Ravens in an NFL divisional playoff game topped all of the week's programs by averaging 30.57 million viewers.
CBS had each of the 10 most-watched scripted entertainment programs, topped by "NCIS," fifth overall with 20.85 million viewers, surpassing its season average of 20.81 million viewers, despite facing the first hour of the "Idol" premiere.
NBC was third overall, averaging 7.31 million viewers. Its coverage of Sunday's Golden Globe Awards continued last year's trend of rising viewership for award shows.