Why Fox Might Want to Rethink Ending ‘American Idol’

Fox singing competition’s farewell season is actually up in the ratings on Wednesdays compared to last year

Last Updated: April 7, 2016 @ 6:04 PM

“American Idol” is enjoying its swan song, and so are viewers, apparently.

The Fox singing competition’s farewell season comes to a conclusion tonight, but that hiatus may not last forever. And perhaps the genre-changer won’t even be off the air for long. After all, this season’s Wednesday episodes of “Idol” are actually doing a little better than last year’s — up 3 percent in the key 18-49 demographic and 2 percent among total viewers, to be precise.

Not too many shows can make that claim — especially these long-running reality offerings. It obviously helped hyping 2015-2016 as “American Idol’s” final run, but any gains were still unexpected, and are thus surely being celebrated at a network that could use the viewers.

Despite having “Empire” and some key NFL games, Fox is trailing the struggling ABC for fourth-place in total viewers during this fall season — though it ranks above the Disney broadcaster in the main demo.

In other words, Gary Newman and Dana Walden will take what they can get — so maybe they will think twice about giving up what they already have. Even host Ryan Seacrest has said that he’s not so sure this will truly be “Idol’s” ride into the sunset — a sentiment echoed by many at the show.

Unfortunately, “Idol” Thursdays — the show’s main night — aren’t doing as hot as the prior evening’s episodes, down 7 percent in the demo and 10 percent among overall audience size season over season. (“Idol” opened the season with Auditions and the Top 24 rounds on both Wednesdays and Thursdays, before settling just on Thursdays. This week it concludes with a full Tuesday-Thursday run.)

But those strong Wednesday episodes (a 3.1 demo rating average) are tied with CBS procedural “NCIS” for the No. 16 slot across all broadcast series, per Nielsen’s “most current” ratings, which include seven-day delayed viewing where available. Considering five of the Top 8 spots are NFL football-related, that’s nothing to sneeze at. By that mark, “Idol” is bigger than “The Bachelor,” which is pretty impressive by reality show standards.

Back to the bummer night, which comes complete with its own bright side. The Thursday shows (a 2.7) drag “Idol” down into a tie with “Big Brother” (Wednesdays) and “Quantico,” sitting as the 22nd biggest series on broadcast. That’s not as good, it’s far less flashy, but still not bad at all — the average is actually two-tenths of a ratings point better than NBC hits “Chicago Fire” and “Little Big Shots,” for example.

Speaking of NBC, however, “Idol” compares unfavorably  to “The Voice.” (Sorry, Fox.)

The Monday powerhouse show draws a 3.8 rating; it’s Tuesday offering gets a 3.4, still significantly better than “Idol’s” better night. The baton was officially passed a while ago, and NBC keeps on carrying it.

Anyway, “Idol” was canceled because it’s expensive, it was struggling, it lost sponsors and had a tough time keeping judges and creating stars. The series is no where near its extremely high heights, but it’s still working, and maybe even experiencing somewhat of a revival.

Or perhaps fans are only tuning in to say goodbye, and to see old favorites like Kelly Clarkson belt out one final tune. Who knows, and who cares — the Nielsen sheets don’t discriminate.

It doesn’t really matter why, but the format is back to getting it done for Fox in Season 15. Imagine if the network could lure Simon Cowell back? Walden and Newman probably are doing that right now, or at least, they should be.

“American Idol” comes to a conclusion — for now, at least — tonight at 8 p.m. on Fox.

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