The economy may be improving, but the ratings for American Idol are not. The Winter Olympics on February 17 beat American Idol for the first time in ratings. The Olympics had almost 12 million more viewers, and even Dancing with the Stars has won the ratings race a few times this season up against Idol. Even though it is still the top rated show, the viewership has declined to an average of 24.5 million per night, and 11.8 million of those viewers are between 18 and 49, according to Nielsen. In 2006, the show had its highest ratings with 30.6 million viewers, 16.3 million of them aged 18-49.
This decline is not good for anyone. Fox’s overall primetime viewership has declined by 8.25% since 2006 according to Nielsen. And if less people are watching Idol then less people are voting for their favorite contestants. If there are less people voting, then Sony and 19 Recordings (who sign the contestants to record deals and release their music) have an even bigger problem. If people are not watching the show and voting, then who is going to buy the contestants’ albums?
Another major factor that will affect Idol’s ratings in the future is the departure of head judge Simon Cowell. Rodney Ho, who has been blogging about American Idol since 2002 and writes for the Atlanta Journal Constitution, believes that Cowell leaving the show will do nothing to help ratings. “Idol has been in a negative downslide the last several seasons and Simon’s departure is going to hasten it…” says Ho. There are many big industry names being rumored to replace Cowell, but will that be enough to salvage the show? Cowell is believed to be American Idol so when he leaves, I don’t think the show will be able to stand on its own. But the ratings will certainly tell where American Idol goes from here.