American Idol has been a nightmare last season for Fox, and the ratings tumbled during the finale. There’s a good chance that the talent show might not have another season.
For example, Thursday’s finale, in which Candice Glover won the coveted prize, averaged 14.3 million viewers, according to overnight ratings.
That’s down a third from more than 21 million last year — and the news gets worse.
Two years ago the finale had more than 29 million viewers, meaning “Idol” has shed half its audience in two years.
And from Fox’s viewpoint, that’s not even the worst number.
Thursday’s share of the 18-to-49-year-old viewers most coveted by advertisers went into free-fall, dropping 44% from last year.
Fox Entertainment President Kevin Reilly, speaking earlier this week before the network’s annual “upfront” presentation of its fall schedule to advertisers, said the producers will go to work “Friday morning” to consider ways to stem the audience exodus.
Original judge Randy Jackson has already said he will not return next year, a decision Reilly said was “mutual, with absolutely no hard feelings on either side.”
Judge Nicki Minaj was reported leaving at midweek, and it is widely expected remaining judges Mariah Carey and Keith Urban could also depart.
Reilly said it is “likely” the show will revert to a three-judge panel next year.
But he also said he thought the audience erosion was tied less to the judges than to the format. He said the “boy/girl” episodes in midseason were not well watched, suggesting there will be some changes next year.
At its peak in 2006, the “Idol” finale drew more than 36 million viewers, and for years the finales drew more than 30 million, making it the most popular non-sports broadcast TV show of the 21st century.
But ratings and buzz have plummeted the last two seasons, as “Idol” has settled down into the pack with two other singing competition shows, Fox’s “X Factor” and NBC’s “The Voice.”
“The Voice” has also drawn a younger audience, which is the name of the TV advertising game. But Reilly has repeatedly said the last few years that even with a dropoff from its peak, “Idol” is a profitable and valuable show.