An average of 13.5 million people (2.4/7 demo rating) tuned in for the 19th-season debut of ABC’s Dancing With The Stars, Image (1) Dancing-With-The-Stars__130829031433-275x172.jpg for post 574190according to early stats. ABC noted the 8-10 PM debut built from its first hour to its second, was Monday’s most-watched program and the No. 1 show in the demo, drawing the biggest audience for any non-sports TV series since May 20.

That said, the long-running franchise was down 23% in the demo and 16% in overall audience — about 2.5 million viewers — compared to last fall’s opener.  (DWTS was preempted last night in Indianapolis –0.95% of the U.S. — for local NFL coverage.) The early stats are a record low for the show in the demo — previously the fall of 2012 had that title with a 2.5 rating. And, in overall audience, last night’s rounded tally ties the reality competition series’ premiere, way back in summer 2005

Important to note that, based on TV Playback for last season in the demo, DWTS is projected to grow to a 2.7-2.8 rating in the Live+3 averages and a 2.8-2.9 rating in Live+7. But the NFL football in Indianapolis last night could reduce chances of DWTS improving in nationals and creates the possibility it might slip a bit.

DWTS is not par with where it started last spring in the demo (2.6 rating) and down considerably in overall audience (15.4 million viewers). Last night’s season launch is on par with where the series wrapped its spring season last May in the demo (2.4) but, again, not so much with total viewers (15.1 million). The producers made a bug push to hang on to younger viewers for this season, including the addition of new judge Julianne Hough and the casting of younger, social media-minded celeb dancers including Pretty Little Liars‘ Janel Parrish and YouTube’s Bethany Mota.

To that point, ABC noted this morning DWTS was the most social entertainment program Monday night with 201,946 tweets.

With its two-tour DWTS and a Castle repeat (7.0 million viewers, 1.1 demo rating), ABC finished first in primetime in overall audience (11.367 million viewers) and tied Fox’s two hours of Masterchef (2.0/6) in the demo.