‘American Idol’ Team Talks Fighting Ratings Losses, Downsizing Live Shows

TCA 2015: Host Ryan Seacrest says contestants needed more opportunities to connect with the audience

The team behind fox’s “American Idol” discussed how they’re combatting ratings losses in the current season.

“I think that the show is successful, because of the sum of all parts,” host Ryan Seacrest told reporters of the show’s ratings losses during Saturday’s Television Critics Association press tour in Pasadena.

He continued, “We had some great contestants, but I think they could have had more instances to connect with the audience and we could’ve captured that better this year. This year, we made a real effort to find those contestants who can and will do that.”

At the end of Season 13, Fox saw its musical show’s season finale dip 30 percent from the season prior in the advertiser-coveted Adults 18-49 demographic. This season, “Idol” aims to form a connection with viewers by adding an extra couple layers to the audition process.

“We put in two new steps,” executive producer Trish Kinane explained. “After Hollywood week, the judges all sat down with contestants individually and just talked with them. It was like an interview. The contestants can say whatever they want to the judges and the judges to the contestants. The judges learn about what they want and what kind of performer they want to be. Then, they put in a performance piece. We wanted to see if they could perform in front of an audience.”

The interview and performance really helped judge Harry Connick, Jr. see another side of the contestants.

“There were a couple performers who came in for the sit-down and my first impression was they were shy or aloof. But when you’re talking to them, you realize that they may not be good about communicating with people but, as one of them said, they come alive on stage. That was very telling.”

He continued, “Then, House of Blues was an amazing experience because we saw those things all of us have to do. You have to go to smaller venues and get up and play. And some whom we thought would be unbelievable fell a little short and vice versa.”

As for the live performance rounds, the network has decided to take them down to just one night a week. That means a couple changes for the run of the show.

“In the one show, we’re going to have all the drama of elimination, as well as the performances for America’s vote for next week,:” Kinane said. “There’s a lot to do in that one show, but it’s going to be great. And, we got different ways we’re going to do the eliminations. What I can tell you is we’re not doing the elimination at the top of the show, because you don’t want to start with that kind of energy. But, we have ideas for spreading the elimination drama throughout the show.”