Page last updated at 11:44 GMT, Thursday, 15 January 2009

Audience is down for opening Idol

Simon Cowell, Kara DioGuardi, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson
The show featured four judges for the first time

The latest series of American Idol has begun with the lowest ratings for an opening show since 2004.

Some 30.1 million viewers in the US tuned in to the opening show of Idol's eighth season - down 10% on last year's viewing figures.

The worst performance on an opening show came four years ago when 28.2 million people tuned in.

Despite the ratings slump, the show still attracted the biggest TV audience so far this year.

More worryingly for producers, there was a 14% dip in the 18 to 49-year-old audience - the group most prized by advertisers.

A spokesman for the show said it was not surprising for the popularity of a show, even one as big as American Idol, to fall after eight seasons.

He added that a bigger chunk of the audience had started recording the two-hour programme.

The show featured four judges for the first time, with the addition of singer-songwriter Kara DioGuardi to the existing panel of Paula Abdul, Simon Cowell and Randy Jackson.

Viewers watched hopefuls auditioning in Phoenix, Arizona. They included a contestant wearing only a swimsuit who earned the nickname Bikini Girl.

The reality show, which will be shown on ITV2 on Thursday night, has launched the careers of recording stars including Kelly Clarkson and Oscar-winner Jennifer Hudson.

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