NBC's America's Got Talent came back for Season 14 this week, but has faltered a bit right out of the gate. Unfortunately, the season premiere, which saw the first appearance of new judges Gabrielle Union and Julianne Hough, is now the least-watched premiere of the entire series.
America's Got Talent's two hour season premiere got an average rating of 1.7 in the key demo of adults 18-49, and reached 9.74 million viewers. While these numbers were good enough for the variety competition to win the night on each count, this puts it behind the 2.5 rating and 12.16 million viewers the show netted with its premiere last year, and it's also down from the 2.1 rating AGT averaged in the same Tuesday night slot in Season 13.
While this drop in viewers might not seem like a huge deal, there are two signs that point to it possibly being more of an issue than most fans would realize. First off, with the exception of a new episode of MasterChef Junior on Fox, America's Got Talent didn't have any competition from a new episode of network television in its first hour. Secondly, and (potentially) the bigger deal, since its series debut back in 2006, AGT season premieres have gotten between 10.48 and 15.28 million viewers, with the formerly lowest viewing number coming in 2012.
On top of that, nine of the now 14 season premieres for America's Got Talent have seen over 12 million viewers, as last year's premiere did. So, the question now is, what might have caused this drop in viewership?
As mentioned earlier, Season 14 debuted with two new judges, Gabrielle Union and Julianne Hough, who replaced Mel B. and Heidi Klum on the panel after they both served as judges from Season 8 through Season 13. Meanwhile, AGT also debuted Terry Crews as the new regular host this week, after he hosted a special season of the competition, America’s Got Talent: The Champions, which aired earlier this year.
One obvious question, then, is if the change in two of the judges and the host could have driven away several million viewers? Shows like America's Got Talent certainly have fans who tune in just to watch the shenanigans of the judges and host, but, especially when looking at AGT over the years, it doesn't seem that viewers generally care that much about who sits on the panel or who hosts the show.
There have been many changes in both the judging panel and the host since the beginning, with the most controversial upset coming when Nick Cannon, who hosted from Season 4 through Season 11, quit the show after getting into a disagreement with NBC over comments he made about the network on his comedy special. Model and former talk show host Tyra Banks took over as host for two seasons, and while she gave it her best shot, she never displayed the charisma that Cannon had, so it wasn't a huge surprise for her to leave.
As far as the judges go, Mel B. and Heidi Klum were already pretty popular before heading in to decide who made it past the initial rounds on AGT. They both worked on the show for a good amount of time, as well, so fans could have gotten attached to them enough to bow out once they realized they wouldn't be back.
Julianne Hough, of course, is known for her time on Dancing With the Stars, but since she won't be doing any performing, that might have kept her fans from following her to this new enterprise. And, while Gabrielle Union has been acting successfully for almost 30 years, she's not exactly a household name who would draw people on her own.
Right now, there's no telling if this is just a notable blip on the America's Got Talent radar or if this is a new, unfortunate, trend for the show. But, you can be sure that we'll keep you up to date on all things AGT related as the show continues Season 14 on NBC, Tuesdays at 8 p.m. EST.
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