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American Idol Returns to Worst Premiere Ratings Yet

American Idol Michael Becker / FOX

American Idol returned with a new judging panel and new executive producers behind the scenes, but that didn't bring in many new viewers.

Early ratings for the Fox singing competition have the American Idol season 13 premiere pulling in about 15 million viewers and a 4.6 rating in the adults 18-49 demo, down 23 percent in the demo rating from last year. The previous season premiere, season 12, had 17.9 million viewers and 6.0 rating in adults 18-49. Still, Fox topped the other broadcast networks in terms of total viewers and in the demo.

UPDATE 1/16: The final numbers are in: Idol ticked up to 15.2 million viewers and a 4.7 rating.

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Harry Connick Jr. joined the judging panel that includes returning faces Keith Urban and Jennifer Lopez. Urban is the only judge to return from the previous season. Lopez was on the panel for seasons 10 and 11, and Connick Jr. previously served as a guest mentor. Last season of American Idol benefited from dozens of headlines regarding the reported feud between then-judges Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey.

The new panel has gotten good reviews—espeically for Connick Jr.—and producers have made changes to the show, including limiting the number of bad singer auditions, in an effort to revamp the long-runng series.

Idol has been on a downward ratings spiral for some years. Its highest-rated premiere was in 2007—season six—which brought in more than 37 million viewers.

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However, the season 13 premiere was up from the season 12 finale, which only had 14 million viewers.

This is the first time NBC's The Voice beat American Idol in terms of premiere demographic ratings. The Voice season five opened with 14. 9 million viewers and a 5.1 rating in the key 18-49 demographic.

(E! and NBC are both part of the NBCUniversal family.)

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