In the latest television ratings, the Bible is hot and aspiring pop stars are not.
The History network's first installment of the miniseries "The Bible" was seen by 13.1 million people Sunday. The series, produced by the husband-and-wife team of Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, will air in four more installments concluding March 31, Easter Sunday.
Meanwhile, both episodes of "American Idol" last week had their smallest audiences since joining Fox's regular schedule more than a decade ago, the Nielsen company said.
"The Bible" appears to be a hit along the lines of History's "Hatfields & McCoys" miniseries last spring. The first episode aired twice Sunday, for a total audience of 14.8 million people. Mostly due to curiosity about the series, History's website had its most visited day ever on Sunday, said Nancy Dubuc, president of entertainment and media for the A&E networks.
"Clearly, the passion for this project has resonated with our viewers and across the nation," Dubuc said. "We are thrilled, and the story is only just beginning."
Another cable favorite, "The Walking Dead" on AMC, reached 11.3 million people Sunday. Both shows had larger audiences than anything on broadcast television, and appeared to contribute to some lousy numbers for the big networks.
ABC heavily promoted the two-hour debut of the drama "Red Widow," but only 7.1 million people sampled it. The 7.4 million viewers for ABC's "Once Upon a Time" on Sunday was nearly four million lower than its season average. Donald Trump returned to the airwaves Sunday and no one noticed: the debut of a new season of "The Apprentice" had 5.2 million viewers.
The A&E Network favorite, "Duck Dynasty," appears to be exploding in popularity, with two episodes exceeding 8.5 million viewers on Wednesday.
By the standards of most programs, the 13.3 million and 12.6 million people who tuned in to "American Idol" last week would be more than satisfying. But they were a measure of the show's continued erosion, something fresh judges Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj and Keith Urban haven't been able to stop.
Fox notes that the period between auditions and when fans begin voting for contestants traditionally represents a lull for the show.
"'American Idol' is in its 12th season and it's consistently a top 5 show on television this year," said Mike Darnell, head of Fox's alternative programming. "How many shows in TV history can make that claim? 'Idol' was the No. 1 show with younger viewers this week and we've lowered the show's median audience age by almost four years."
Darnell's latter point is important: along with the show itself, the "Idol" audience had been aging, and that costs Fox advertising revenue.
CBS won the week with an average of 9.1 million viewers in prime time (5.9 rating, 10 share). Fox averaged 6.6 million viewers (4.0, 6), ABC had 6.1 million (3.9, 6), NBC had 4.1 million (2.7, 4), the CW had 1.2 million and ION Television 1.1 million (both 0.8, 1).
Among the Spanish-language networks, Univision led with a 3.7 million average (1.9, 3), Telemundo had 1.4 million (0.7, 1), UniMas had 570,000 (0.3, 1), Estrella had 210,000 and Azteca 100,000 (both 0.1, 0).
NBC's "Nightly News" topped the evening newscasts with an average of 9 million viewers (6.0, 11). ABC's "World News" was second with 8.5 million (5.7, 11) and the "CBS Evening News" had 6.9 million viewers (4.7, 9).
A ratings point represents 1,147,000 households, or 1 percent of the nation's estimated 114.7 million TV homes. The share is the percentage of in-use televisions tuned to a given show.
For the week of Feb 25-March 3, the top 10 shows, their networks and viewerships: "NCIS," CBS, 20.69 million; "NCIS: Los Angeles," CBS, 17.02 million; "American Idol" (Wednesday), Fox, 13.3 million; "American Idol" (Thursday), Fox, 12.56 million; "60 Minutes," CBS, 12.02 million; "Castle," ABC, 10.77 million; "The Big Bang Theory," CBS, 10.69 million; "Golden Boy," CBS, 10.56 million; "Modern Family," ABC, 10.53 million; "2 Broke Girls," CBS, 10.41 million.