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This week, Fox’s American Idol returned to the schedule with two new episodes that posted new lows in the ratings for the veteran competition series. We’ve literally been writing about the decline in the show’s ratings for years, but it should be noted that American Idol probably isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
This week, American Idol’s premiere brought in 11.2 million total viewers and a 3.2 rating in the 18-49 advertising demo. THR reports that the network’s Thursday night outing stayed fairly even, pulling in a 3.0 rating and 11 million total viewers. Sure, the Season 14 premiere was down 25% in viewership from last year’s premiere (and well down from the 30 million plus viewers that watched the show during its peak), but it also was a great lead-in for Empire, which ended up nabbing more than 9 million total viewers and a whopping 3.8 rating, likely helped at least a little bit by its lead-in.
While the numbers are down, they are nothing like the horror story that was Fox’s alternate competition series, The X Factor, a few years ago. That show had episodes that did less than a 1.0 rating, and American Idol is actually still bringing in big numbers for Fox compared to a lot of the other programs the network has to offer. Gotham’s latest outing this Monday, for instance, only brought in a 2.5 rating and 7 million total viewers. Some well-liked shows on the network, including New Girl, fare even worse. The latest episode of New Girl brought in a 1.5 rating and a little over 3 million total viewers. Even when compared with Gotham, Idol looks downright healthy.
Along with this, American Idol has done plenty to ensure that the competition series is still a viable property for Fox. The show has broken up with a lot of the expensive judges that made the production costly. This year, the final original judge, Randy Jackson, decided he wouldn’t even mentor, leaving Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban and Harry Connick, Jr. as the mostly more budget-friendly names attached. Additionally, when the live shows hit the schedule in March, Fox is cutting back to one episode a week rather than two nights of episodes. Along with the cutbacks, American Idol broke up with coke.
So, while American Idol certainly has less cultural resonance than the show used to have, along with a cheaper budget, it should still be on the airwaves for a long time. Plan to catch it on Wednesday nights for some time into the future. Whether or not the judges will remain the same, however, is unclear. As well as this current group seems to be working, the history of American Idol is filled with almost constant change. Considering we're more than a decade in, that's a good thing.