American Idol Popularity Waning: Almost 20 Million Less Viewers Than in 2007

American Idol judges Randy Jackson, Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj and Keith Urban are shown with host Ryan Seacrest in the center. The show is staggering into Season 12 as viewers leave the show in droves.

The first American Idol show was telecast on June 11, 2002 with 9.85 viewers watching The 2003 premiere show attracted 26.50 million viewers almost tripling the viewers from 2002. The 2007 premiere show attracted a record 37.44 million viewers, but there has been a steady decline of viewers since then, bottoming out at 17.93 viewers to start Season 12 last January. The show has lost close to 20 million viewers in the last six seasons.

Surprisingly the season finale topped out in Season 2 in 2003 at 38.06 million viewers and last year’s finale only attracted 21.49 million viewers, which is the all-time low for a finale.

With The Voice being telecast twice a year and X-Factor being shown in the fall it appears singing competition shows have reached the saturation point.  With American Idol starting about a month after the last X-Factor show has been shown, fans are not getting much of a break.

The Voice and X-Factor winners don’t get near the publicity of the American Idol winners. Quick, name all three winners of The Voice and the two winners of X-Factor. Only the most devout fans of either show could give you those names, without stopping to think it over.

Melanie Amaro who won X-Factor in December of 2011 has yet to release her debut album, which will be released next month. Meanwhile Phil Phillips the Season 11 winner of American Idol has already sold 700,000 copies of his debut album Dark Side of the Moon which has received 361 five-star reviews, while receiving only 5 one star reviews. I have to admit that I didn’t think Phil Phillips would go far as an artist, but he could be on the cusp of a great career.

Phil Phillips has been opening shows for Matchbox 20.

Season 12

American Idol went from a three judge panel of Steven Tyler, Jennifer Lopez and Randy Jackson in Season 11 to a four person panel of Keith Urban, Nicki Minaj, Randy Jackson and Mariah Carey in Season 12. The show got off on the wrong foot, before the first show aired as Nicki Minaj threatened to knock out Mariah Carey at the Charlotte auditions. They tangled more along the way to the opening show, but in recent weeks they have both calmed down and don’t talk to each other. Minaj is said to have said that if she had a gun she would shoot Carey, but later denied ever saying that.

Placing two divas on the judging panel was a recipe for disaster and that was what it turned out to be. I am sure the producers have told them to cool it, because most viewers like me don’t like a lot of attention being placed on the judges. Nicki Minaj seemed to be harsher with contestants a few weeks ago but seems to have calmed down and show more compassion for the contestants.

Keith Urban has really surprised me with his knowledge of American music and has very well thought out critiques of the singers. Randy Jackson has apparently appointed himself as the villain among the panelists, as he seems to be more critical of the singers, than the other three judges. Mariah Carey is taking over the Paula Abdul role as the judge who seldom says anything critical of most singers.

Ellen DeGeneres was by far the worst judge in the history of American Idol. She seemed to be more intent on cracking jokes, than on making meaningful critiques of the singers. It was no surprise, that she was a one season and out judge. I think even she sensed she didn’t belong on American Idol as a judge. Know that has nothing to do with Season 12, but just felt compelled to mention her judging skills or lack of.

It is too early to have a favorite or even to mention any names of the Season 12 contestants, since there are many eliminations ahead before the Final 10 is announced.

Apparently the tradition of judges going to rooms with contestants and telling which rooms are going home and which ones are advancing has been dropped, but that could change before the Final 10 is chosen. I liked that the Hollywood group week contestants were sorted into groups by American Idol executives. It ridded the show of the drama of singers begging to join a group or being dismissed by a group. I will never forget the season when the young boy from Louisiana was dumped by one group and him having to find a new group.

I don’t know if the tradition of contestants taking the long walk to talk to judges and being told their fate by the judges will be repeated this season. I am hoping by the end of this week, that we will know who the Final 10 singers are. Right now I think that the girl singers are better and should have more singers in the Top 10, but the producers may want an even number of girls and boys in the Top 10.

TV By the Numbers shows that both Big Bang Theory and Person of Interest attracted more viewers than American Idol last Thursday. The show is no longer the juggernaut it used to be, but it still is one of the most-watched shows on television.

It will be interesting to find out who the Final 10 will be composed of and we should know by the end of Thursday night’s show.


Author: Andrew Godfrey

Retired from newspaper work after 38 years. Had served in the Army in Hawaii and Vietnam in the 60's. Am now retired and living in Sulphur, Louisiana.

2 thoughts on “American Idol Popularity Waning: Almost 20 Million Less Viewers Than in 2007”

  1. The picture you have painted is dismal but is correct as far as the waning ratings are concerned at this point. However, after ten years of watching AI, I am confident that once the top ten are selected and the live shows begin, we will see the ratings rise. Some people have a hard time getting through all these auditions, including myself. I like it better when the top people are picked, and I think the excitement picks up when the viewers start picking their favorites. One thing for certain, if you do have a favorite, you better vote for him/her because the judges’ favorites don’t always win once the top ten is selected because if I am not mistaken, they don’t have a wildcard this year to save anyone if the viewers vote them off. It’s supposed to be the viewers’ votes that count when it comes to selecting the one to win the AI title and not the judges.

    1. Hope you are right about the AI fans waiting for the Top 10 to be chosen and that the ratings will hold their own. American Idol will always be the singing competition, that matters the most to me, since none of The Voice winners or X-Factor winners have made much of an impact, that I know of in the music world. The winners on those shows are not always winners in the world of music.

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