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When Fox made the decision to end American Idol just a few short days ago, the network announced they wanted the singing competition to end while it could still go out with a bang. Unfortunately, the numbers for last night’s finale are in, and it looks as if American Idol has already reached a point where it will go out with a whimper. Last night, 7.7 million total viewers tuned in for the American Idol Season 14 finale which saw Nick Fradiani win. Those numbers are well down from the show’s heights of 38 million total viewers early in its run; even worse, the show is not doing well even when compared to last season.
There is a bright spot. American Idol’s finale actually ticked up in the ratings compared to earlier Season 14 episodes, but that one small bright spot is overshadowed by a lot of sucky stuff. As noted prior, the episode brought in 7.7 million viewers, which translated to only a 1.6 rating. That means the show didn’t come close to winnning the night in the ratings. Variety is reporting that also-veteran program Survivor, as well as ABC’s Black-ish and Modern Family, also did better in overall viewership. (Idol was even further down on the list if you are only counting the 18-49 demographic.)
What’s saddest about this is how quickly American Idol has faltered in the ratings. The show’s most popular episode was that 38 million Season 2 finale I mentioned above, but the numbers have been dropping since Season 7, when only 26 million people on average tuned in for each episode. The numbers really started to go south during Season 11, when only 17 million viewers on average tuned in. By Season 12, that number had dropped to 13 million viewers per episode, and by this season, the show was doing well under that, with last night’s finale dropping 38% in the ratings from last year, alone.
It’s been a long, sharp fall for American Idol, especially since Coca-Cola has stopped sponsoring the show, and I’m actually a little bit surprised the competition series will even be back next year. It does seem as if Fox is hoping to rework the formatting of American Idol for its 15th and final season a bit, to ensure as much nostalgia as possible makes its way into the programming. Hopefully, that will translate into an uptick in the ratings, but I'm not sure the strategy will work.
During a conference call this week, the network said that it was already looking into bringing back past judges and contestants for the final run of episodes. Plans like these are already in the works for Season 15, but it'll likely be a while before we learn who is expected to return, as Idol won’t even hit the schedule again until 2016.