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By James Hibberd
Updated January 18, 2013 at 04:41 PM EST
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Idol Ratings Gabe Brown

The second night of Fox’s 12th season of American Idol showed a sign of improvement for the reality veteran.

Make no mistake, Thursday’s Idol was lower rated than the premiere — that’s standard, especially since the show shifted to a Wednesday-Thursday pattern a couple years back. But instead of dropping 19 percent year over year like the first episode, Night 2 was down only 2 percent — a mere tenth of a point — from 2012. And even that gap could get erased when the final national ratings come in later.

In other words: Whether you love or hate the addition of Mariah Carey, Keith Urban and Nicki Minaj, more viewers stuck with the show this season after checking out the first episode. During the last couple years, Idol ratings dropped at least 20 percent between the show’s first two nights; this time the decline was only 7 percent. In fact, looking at the chart below, this the first time Night 2 hasn’t dropped significantly year over year since Idol‘s ratings plunge began in 2008. The two-hour telecast delivered 16.2 million viewers and a 5.6 rating among adults 18-49. Maybe Fox’s reality chief Mike Darnell was onto something when he told us yesterday that the judging panel was generating helpful buzz.

A tougher test will come when CBS resumes airing original episodes of its powerful Thursday lineup (CBS ran repeats last night). The Big Bang Theory is pulling down larger numbers lately than last night’s Idol performance and seems likely to win the night outright in the coming weeks.

Also Thursday: ABC was once again hit across the board by Idol, all shows dropping 7-17 percent. The return of The CW’s Vampire Diaries had its best numbers in a couple months (followed by a repeat of The Carrie Diaries pilot which came precariously close to tying its low-rated premiere). In fact, Vampire Diaries beat NBC’s 30 Rock and 1600 Penn in the demo. NBC’s comedy block was down — except Parks & Recreation, which jumped up from its last telecast six weeks ago.

Idol Night 2 history:

NIGHT 2

1/19/12

…THUR…

18018

5.7

1/20/11

…THUR…

22914

7.8

1/13/10

..WED

26416

10.1

1/14/09

..WED….

30343

11.8

1/16/2008

..WED….

30458

12.6

1/17/2007

..WED…

36946

15.5

1/18/2006

..WED….

31648

13.0

1/19/2005

..WED…

26800

11.3

1/20/2004

.TUE…..

28626

12.6

1/22/03

..WED….

25019

11.8

Last night full chart:

ADULT DEMO RANK

ADULTS 18-49 RATING

TOTAL VIEWERS (+000)

FOX

8-10P

AMERICAN IDOL

P

#1

5.6

16,185

ABC

8-9P

LAST RESORT

#14

1.0

5,010

9-10P

GREY ANATOMY

#3

2.9

8,675

10-11P

SCANDAL

#4

2.6

7,949

CBS

8:00P

BIG BANG

R

#2

3.3

11,896

8:30P

TWO&HALF MEN

R

#5

2.4

9,132

9-10P

PERSON INTEREST

R

#8

1.6

9,364

10-11P

ELEMENTAR

R

#9t

1.4

7,049

NBC

8:00P

30 ROCK

#11

1.3

3,496

8:30P

PARK & REC

#7

1.9

3,888

9:00P

OFFICE

#6

2.1

4,152

9:30P

1600 PENN

#12t

1.2

3,040

10-11P

ROCK WILLIAMS

#12t

1.2

4,383

CW

8-9P

VAMPIRE DIARIES

#9t

1.4

2,909

9-10P

CARRIE DIARIES

RS

#15

0.5

1,154

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