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'American Idol' drops again: How low will the ratings go?

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When American Idol season 12 premiered lower in the ratings than last year, that was to be expected — returning weaker has been the show’s trend for several years.

When Idol numbers dipped after the show moved from auditions to the Hollywood rounds, that was also to be expected too — the reality veteran’s ratings tend to sag during the middle portion of its run every year.

But Idol is dropping nearly every week and last night was down 50 percent from its Thursday night premiere this season … and that’s scary.

Thursday’s Idol fell another 7 percent down to 11.7 million viewers and a 2.8 rating among adults 18-49. Again: a 2.8 rating. For the first time ever, ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy topped Idol in these early numbers. Hell, Scandal nearly tied Idol!

Here’s Idol‘s Wednesday night track in the demo since its debut this season: 6.0, 5.5, 5.5, 4.6, 4.3, 4.1, 3.9, 3.8, 3.8, 3.6. While Thursday’s trend has been: 5.6, 5.2, 4.5, 4.1, 3.7, 3.9, 3.8, 3.6, 3.1 and then last night’s preliminary 2.8, down 33 percent from last year’s airing this week. The only time the show’s ratings have gone up this season was the week after Valentine’s Day (which is a traditionally soft night for TV viewing).

Elsewhere on the grid: ABC’s regular-folks version of Wife Swap was up from its last season premiere. Grey’s was up 12 percent. A special 1600 Penn at 8:30 was softer than Parks and Recreation in the slot. CW’s Vampire Diaries perked up a tenth for last night’s punk rock episode.

Full Chart:

FOX 8-9P AMERICAN IDOL #2 2.8 11,652
9-10P GLEE #4 2.0 5,893
ABC 8-9P WIFE SWAP P #6 1.7 5,004
9-10P GREY ANATOMY #1 2.9 9,107
10-11P SCANDAL #3 2.7 8,570
CBS 8-930P NCAA S #5 1.9 5,757
9:30P NCAA S #7 1.5 4,345
10-11P NCAA S #8t 1.2 3,299
NBC 8:00P COMMUNITY #10t 1.1 3,025
8:30P 1600 PENN S #12t 0.9 2,541
9:00P OFFICE R #12t 0.9 2,314
9:30P 1600 PENN #14 0.8 2,289
10-11P LAW&SVU R #10t 1.1 4,216
CW 8-9P VAMPIRE DIARIES #8t 1.2 2,554
9-10P BEAUTY&BEAST #15 0.7 1,773