Tuesday's (March 16) two-hour edition of "American Idol" gave the Fox network its most-watched Tuesday ever.

Tuesday's (March 16) two-hour edition of "American Idol" gave the Fox network its most-watched Tuesday ever.

The 8-10 p.m. edition of "American Idol," featuring the start of competition among the show's 12 finalists, delivered an average of 26.7 million viewers and an 11.3 rating/28 share in the adults 18-49 demographic, according to Nielsen Media Research. That was strong enough to top anything else, sporting events included, that Fox has served up on a Tuesday since the network began programming the night in January 1993.

Moreover, this year's edition of "Idol" is beating the show's own lofty standard from last year. Tuesday's episode was up 9% in the adults 18-49 demo compared with the comparable episode in 2003 and up 20% in total viewers.

Viewership of Tuesday's episode, which featured the combatants belting out such R&B favorites as Stevie Wonder's "Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours" and Otis Redding's "(Sittin' on) The Dock of the Bay," peaked in the 8:30-9 p.m. half-hour with an average of 27.4 million viewers.