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A Good Idol Helps Others, Too

Fox's third installment of American Idol
is proving yet again an unstoppable draw. The Jan. 19 premiere attracted 29 million viewers, followed by 28.6 million viewers on Jan. 20 and another 29.4 million on Jan. 21.

That's great news for Fox, which has been craving a hit. Even better for the network, though, American Idol
gave a boost to its lead-outs, new reality show My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiancé
and The O.C.
The latter attracted 12.8 million viewers last week, a 44% jump, thanks to American Idol. The Idol
episodes, showcasing the best and worst auditions, even boosted Fox's ratings for the president's State of the Union speech Jan. 20.

Lately, cable shows—from Bravo's Queer Eye for the Straight Guy
to FX's Nip/Tuck—have been getting most of the attention. But the success of American Idol
reaffirms the power of broadcast, says Horizon Media's research chief Brad Adgate. "This just shows that the broadcast networks can still draw impressive numbers. I don't think a cable network can come close to that number."

So far, this American Idol
is pacing ahead of last season. After three episodes last spring, American Idol
was averaging 25.3 million viewers, compared with 29.0 million viewers so far this time.

Going into February sweeps, though, the show's continued vitality bodes well for Fox, particularly in the key 18-49 demographic. If Idol
continues to hum and another reality show like Fiancé
can do a nice number, "they could make a run for it," observes Adgate.

So far so good. Each of last week's three episodes was the top-rated program on its night among adults 18-49, averaging a 12.7 rating/31 share.