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‘American Idol’ viewers down from last year

Fox’s ““American Idol” added three new judges, but Wednesday’s season opener subtracted 4 million viewers from last year’s start.

The singing competition averaged 17.9 million viewers for its two-hour taped New York audition opener, down from 21.9 million from last January’s return. (The 2011 opener averaged 26.2 million.) About 6% of adults ages 18 to 49 tuned in, down from 7.4% a year ago.

But the network put a positive spin on that decline, noting “Idol” beat the combined audience of its three big-network rivals among that crowd and marked the highest-rated night of entertainment programming this season.

“Idol” remains the top-rated singing competition, easily beating fall premieres of NBC’s “The Voice” (12.3 million) and Fox’s own “The X Factor” (8.7 million). But the slower start suggests it will lose its crown as the most-watched entertainment series: Both CBS’ “NCIS” and “The Big Bang Theory” are currently trending higher, and both add far more viewers when DVR-delayed viewing is factored in.

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