Viewers no longer worship 'American Idol'

Ratings for the singing competition are at a decade low. Even 'Duck Dynasty' is pulling in a larger audience in TV's most-sought after demographic.

By Jonathan Berr Mar 5, 2013 8:33AM
American Idol judges speak onstage during the 2013 Winter TCA Tour at Langham Hotel on January 8, 2013 in Pasadena, Calif. (Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)
 "American Idol," the singing competition that introduced the world to Kelly Clarkson, Jennifer Hudson and Clay Aiken among others, is running out of gas.

Ratings for the onetime must-see show on News Corp.'s (NWS) Fox network recently hit a decade low, according to Advertising Age. Its numbers have been on the decline for years, which isn't surprising given the show's longevity. But one recent broadcast drew just 13.1 million viewers, the fewest since August 2002, Ad Age notes, citing Nielsen data. 

Not only has ABC's "Modern Family" and CBS'  (CBS) "Big Bang Theory" bested it among viewers 18 to 49 -- the demographic that advertisers most covet -- but as Vote for the Worst recently pointed out, so has "Duck Dynasty," a show chronicling the adventures of millionaire hillbillies who own a duck-call business. What makes this noteworthy is that the program is on A&E, a cable channel.

Vote for the Worst gained notoriety for encouraging its readers to vote for the worst contestants competing on the Fox show. "No one cares about ["American Idol"] anymore except fat old Southern housewives," an unidentified person wrote to Vote for the Worst. "That's Idol's new key demographic now. I don't think it can be saved."

Other commentators have also noted how far the program has fallen even amid the reported feud between judges Nicki Manaj and Mariah Carey. A spokesperson for Fox couldn't immediately be reached.

"Showrunners feared having to compete against the program that insiders called 'The Death Star,'" said Entertainment Weekly last week. "Nowadays, that’s no space station. Idol is just another moon in the orbit of primetime, minding its own business, not causing much trouble."

The show still attracts huge audiences, and its staying power is remarkable. But the program's troubles may have financial ramifications. Most TV advertising is sold in advance and is priced based on the show's anticipated audience. If the ratings fall short of these expectations, advertisers are due what's known as make-goods, essentially free commercial time.

That could be bad news for shares of News Corp., recently just under $30, which have surged about 16% this year.

--Jonathan Berr does not own shares of the listed stocks. Follow him on Twitter @jdberr.


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4Comments
Mar 5, 2013 4:20PM
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when they started making the show more about lame judges (the 2 idiot girls) that are on the show this year, they seem to think that this is entertaining get back to having the singers sing and tell the judges to just shut up you would see more people tuning in the people can't stand the judges

at least when Simon was a judge he told them when they suck now you just cater to them so the judges get more airtime that is so stupid

Mar 5, 2013 9:02AM
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Swamp People is more entertaining than Idol. At least it's characters have some decent family values. Now if they could just get rid of all these karaoke contests and put some real programming on prime time.
Mar 5, 2013 11:07AM
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Duck Dynasty is clean, family programming, and is funny. The whole family watches it together. 
Mar 5, 2013 11:06AM
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We watch Idol and Voice. The girls on Idol are far superior to the men, in my opinion.
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