Why Fox Gave Up Too Soon on ‘American Idol’ (Commentary)

Pricey singing competition went out with a pretty good bang last year

After just one season off-the-air, “American Idol” is all set return to broadcast television, thanks to some Disney mouth-to-mouth (*Mouse-to-mouth?). And if you ask this TV reporter, the series probably never should have been killed off by Fox in the first place.

In the show’s 2015-2016 “farewell” season, Wednesday episodes of “American Idol” ended up as the 12th highest-rated entertainment series on broadcast, averaging a 3.0 Nielsen TV rating in the advertiser-coveted 18-49 demographic. That number counts one week’s worth of delayed viewing, and was good enough to tie it with “The Bachelor.” Both series would have shifted one spot even higher if not for Fox’s mini-revival of “The X-Files.”

“Idol’s” Thursday episodes (a 2.8 average) were the 15th best-rated entertainment series (so, no sports) of the season, knotting up with “Survivor” and “The Blacklist.” None of that is bad.

Even better, those Wednesday “American Idol” episodes were actually up 15 percent in the main demo from the prior season. The Thursday ones were down, but just a measly 3 percent. Almost any show with sign up for that kind of steadiness, and every one would kill for the Wednesday jump.

In terms of total viewers, Wednesday “American Idol” episodes leaped 10 percent over the 2014-2015 version, while Thursdays ticked down 4 percent. Both hauled in more than 11 million viewers per episode.

Dana Walden and Gary Newman: Why did you guys cancel this show again?

OK, so we know the answer. Fox scrapped “American Idol” after 15 seasons because it was expensive, it lost sponsors, had a tough time keeping judges and creating stars, and was nowhere near its extremely high heights. And we admit that some of last year’s ratings power must have come from a nostalgia factor, fewer dedicated programming hours (which could drag down an average), as well as terrific booking of former show stars, and just a general desire of viewers to pay respects to a TV classic before it goes away forever… Read: for 12 months.

Still, the series was undeniably working at its time of death, and maybe even experiencing somewhat of a revival. Well, Fox and fans — now it’s definitely being resuscitated.

Unfortunately, the franchise and its ratings will soon exist on ABC — the very network Fox has been battling in recent seasons in an effort to avoid the basement among the so-called Big 4 broadcasters.

By the way, if you think this TV reporter is conveniently playing the role of a revisionist historian here, hush — because I wrote pretty much this exact same thing before “Idol” signed off last April. Plus, Channing Dungey agrees with me, and that’s as much reassurance as I need.

“‘American Idol‘ is a pop-culture staple that left the air too soon,” the president of ABC Entertainment said Tuesday morning in a media release. “ABC is the right home to reignite the fan base. We are thrilled viewers will once again share in these inspiring stories of people realizing their dreams.”

Will it be 11+ million viewers per episode though? We’ll have to wait until next season to find out. Until then, all Walden and Newman can do is second-guess themselves — just like this article is.