Currently in its 11th season on Fox, the Idol franchise seems to be suffering in the ratings, and things aren’t looking up for the aging music competition. During the height of American Idol, no show could beat it on any network. It was known as the show killer, because any show scheduled opposite of it would get crushed in the ratings. The highest rated season to date, seasons 5 and 6, averaged between 30-37 million viewers, a rare feat for any show on TV in the age of DVR’s, netflix, and online streaming. Now, Idol has moved to a new night, Wednesdays and Thursdays, and have been going against some of TV’s biggest hits.
Season 11 of American Idol premiered to its lowest ratings since season 1, 21 million viewers. Even though that number is still large enough to dominate the majority of shows on TV, ratings have slid within the past 3 weeks to a recent low of 16.99 million viewers for its most recent airing (Thursday, January 26th). That number was low enough for CBS’ The Big Bang Theory to tie Idol in the A18-49 demo (5.4), and Big Bang was only 1.4 million viewers away from beating Idol in total viewers.
Last week, for Big Bang‘s 100th episode, it beat American Idol for the first time ever in the demo and total viewers in the 8-830p.m. hour. Many insiders thought it was just a fluke, since CBS heavily promoted the monumental episode for its Thursday comedy, but it seems like lightning struck twice for CBS.
In addition to Big Bang, ABC’s Modern Family is also closing in on Idol‘s 18-49 demo numbers. On average, Modern Family pulls a 5.0-5.3 rating, close enough to knock off Idol on Wednesdays as well.
What’s the cause of this downward trend in Idol‘s ratings? One strong possibility is viewer fatigue from many other musical-competition shows like Idol. Between NBC’s America’s Got Talent, The Sing-Off, and Fox’s The X-Factor (which could be a reason why American Idol’s ratings are lower than average this season) these kind of shows are on all year-round. It may be too much for viewers.
NBC’s summer hit The Voice returns Monday, February 6th at 8p.m., and even though ratings won’t be as high as they were over the summer, it could also cannibalize American Idol‘s audience, even though they air on different nights.
American Idol may still be TV’s reigning champ when it comes to entertainment shows in the ratings, but with shows like The Big Bang Theory, Modern Family, and possibly The Voice looking in Idol‘s rearview mirror, the aging Fox show is going to have to fight to keep its #1 spot at the end of this season.