The singing competition moved to ABC for season 16 after Fox took the show off the air in 2016 following season 15. Many thought that Idol was down for the count, as audiences were showing more interest in shows like The Voice and America's Got Talent. However, the new line-up on ABC paid off on March 18 when it drew the eyes of 7.7 million viewers, according to a report by Variety.
The show managed a 1.8 Nielsen rating in the key demographic of adults from ages 18-49, a big win for the longstanding competition show. The performance was down by about 21% from the season premiere last Sunday, however, experts see this as a predictable drop-off following the heavily promoted return of an old show.
While this Sunday's ratings were down, they were able to lead the night in adult viewership overall, which the premiere didn't manage. American Idol is not likely to regain its status and influence from the early 2000s on Fox, when it was a television phenomenon.
Another big success on Sunday was CBS's new drama Instinct, starring Alan Cumming. It held the attention of 8.8 million viewers with a 1.0 rating in the demographic. The 8:30 p.m. ET slot likely helped the new show, and it got a boost from its lead-in, 60 Minutes, which was preceded by NCAA coverage.
NBC had a heavy hitter as well, with the season premiere of Little Big Shots. The show, hosted by Steve Harvey, got 7.5 million viewers and a 1.1 rating. It was followed by the series premiere of Neil Patrick Harris's new quiz show, Genius Junior, which pulled in 5.1 million viewers and a 1.0 rating in they key demographic.
Later in the night, NBC's Timeless held onto just 2.9 million viewers with a 0.7 rating, although Variety reports that the show often gets a bump later in the week from streamed or recorded views. ABC also lost a big chunk of its audience following Idol, with Deception dropping to 4.2 million viewers and a 0.9 rating.
Over on Fox, it was a pretty typical night — Family Guy received 2.3 million viewers with a 1.0 rating, marking the network's biggest Sunday success.
Overall, the night was a tie between ABC and CBS for the attention of the adults between 18 and 49. As far as total viewers, however, CBS led the pack with 9 million, as compared to ABC's 6.2 million.