Tags: American | Idol | Finale | Ratings

'American Idol' Is Off Key

Image: 'American Idol' Is Off Key (Getty Images)

Tuesday, 21 May 2013 05:01 PM

By James Hirsen

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The once dominant television phenomenon “American Idol” has tried almost everything this season. But unfortunately, even a finale that featured trendy dance moves by Psy, soulful renderings by Aretha Franklin, nostalgic falsetto singing by Frankie Valli, and a provocative performance by former judge Jennifer Lopez couldn’t stop the show’s ratings erosion.

Ending a season of dismal numbers, the final installment of Season 12 drew the smallest “Idol” finale audience in the show’s history.

Back in 2006, when the music industry marvel was quickly conquering the small screen, the finale attracted 36 million viewers. Subsequent “Idol” finales would typically tally over 30 million.

No such boasts can be made anymore. According to Nielsen, the show’s numbers were down 33 percent from last year’s finale, as it shed 7.2 million of its viewers and landed with a total viewer count thud of 14.3 million.

It marked the first time in the 13 year-long “Idol” run that one of its finales failed to attract 20 million or more. In 2011 the finale secured an audience of 29 million, which in 2012 dropped to 21.5 million viewers, a record holder up until now for the lowest rated finale. Simply stated, half of the reality show’s total viewership vanished in just two short years.

“Idol” ratings across Season 12 have been consistently below expectations, and what no doubt must be of serious concern is the precipitous decline that has taken place in the coveted 18 to 49-year-old demographic, which fell a massive 44 percent from the previous year and has the potential to be of major consequence to advertising revenues. A reduction of this sort in the young adult demographic is not only troubling for the show’s producers, it tends to set off a virtual panic alarm for network execs as well.

Television experts are somewhat befuddled and are likely scratching their heads and wondering what went wrong with the television juggernaut of bygone days. The show has been on for a dozen years, and it may simply be that its premise has grown stale.

It may also be suffering from some stiff competition a la copycat rivals. Viewers have been able to choose from an array of similar programming, including Simon Cowell’s “The X Factor” and the NBC “Idol” facsimile, “The Voice,” which incidentally has also experienced a ratings decline.

One of the advantages that “Idol” had going for it during its early seasons was its wholesomeness. Millions of families looked with anticipation to one of the few shows that together they could tune into and truly enjoy. It was uplifting and engaging for dream seekers of all ages.

Like so often happens, though, some “edgy” content began to seep into the show via guest artists and a series of subsequent judges, and it worked to actually undermine the ability of parents to feel as comfortable as they once had with “Idol.”

Additionally, competitive reality shows are about both judges and participants, and there has been a great deal of discussion among fans about the chemistry, or lack thereof, as it pertains to the most recent judge panel. On paper, a foursome that included Keith Urban, Nicki Minaj, Mariah Carey, and Randy Jackson may have looked like an outstanding lineup. However, there seemed to be a general shortage of valuable feedback for contestants, and the slate of judges didn’t garner the kind of fan reaction that producers had hoped for.

During the final weeks of “Idol,” the judges, whether inadvertently or not, gave viewers the impression that they were unduly favoring certain contestants over others. At times they even appeared to be subtly prodding viewers to cast votes in a particular direction.

The problem is if there is a perception that bias exists among the judges, particularly during the final stages of the contest, it is natural for the credibility of the show to take a hit. Some of the judges’ comments apparently led a number of viewers to believe that this was the case.

The show is reportedly going to be totally revamped, which is supposed to include a fresh installment of superstar judges.

Fox Entertainment President Kevin Reilly, who spoke just prior to the network’s annual “upfront” presentation to advertisers, promised that producers are going to work on ways to reverse the viewer attrition that has occurred. The declining ad revenues would pretty much mandate that they do so.

Reilly indicated that next year the show is “likely” to go back to a three-judge panel format.

James Hirsen, J.D., M.A., in media psychology, is a New York Times best-selling author, media analyst, and law professor. Visit Newsmax.TV Hollywood. Read more reports from James Hirsen — Click Here Now.

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