Has ‘Dancing With the Stars’ dethroned ‘American Idol’ as America’s No. 1 show?

Since its killer Season 3 in 2004, "American Idol" has been an indomitable ratings force. But now its reign looks jeopardized by … "Dancing With the Stars"?

Well, certainly Season 10 of "DWTS" has gotten off to a potent start, which may be what happens when Pamela Anderson, Shannen Doherty and Kate Gosselin show up to dance their feet sore. ABC says that it has emerged as the nation's No. 1 show because the "DWTS" average audience the last two weeks (23.6 million) has outdrawn — albeit barely — the Tuesday total for "Idol" (23 million) that same fortnight period. This week, the Monday edition of "DWTS" (23 million) beat out both the Tuesday (21.8 million) and Wednesday (20.5 million) editions of "Idol" for the first time ever. And overall, "DWTS" is up 30% this season in total viewers. 

However, there are a few asterisks to those great "DWTS" highlights. First, ABC's dance show has only been back a couple of weeks, and there's no telling whether viewer fascination with its tabloid-worthy cast will fade over the next few airings. And that big audience for "DWTS" still skews old — much older than for "Idol," which routinely trounces the dancing show among young adults. A whopping 60% of the "DWTS" audience is over 50 years old, compared with just 37% for "Idol." In fact, this Tuesday, when "Idol" faced "DWTS" in head-to-head competition, Fox's singing show scored a 7.2 rating among adults aged 18 to 49. ABC notched a 3.0. The Tuesday "Idol" also clobbered "DWTS" even among all viewers (21.8 million versus 14.3 million). 

So really, it's still all about "Idol." The Fox show is competing with itself as it manages its inevitable viewership decline. So far, season to date, the Tuesday shows have shed about 1 million viewers compared with last year. For any other series, that would be a catastrophe. For "Idol," it adds up to a 4% drop.

— Scott Collins

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