While "America's Got Talent" producers have drawn fire for the ousting of new judges Gabrielle Union and Julianne Hough amid counter-accusations of "difficult" behavior and bad "workplace culture," there may be another factor in the decision to shake up the on-air talent.
Last summer's ratings for the NBC reality competition series showed the steepest drop the 14-year series has ever seen, with "AGT" shedding more than one-quarter of its audience among adults aged 18-49 compared to summer 2018. (In addition to Union and Hough, the judges included Howie Mandel in his 10th season and Simon Cowell in his fourth.)
In terms of "live" tune-in, "AGT" shed 400,000 viewers from its previously low of 9.9 million back in 2013. In the key demo, it was the first time that "America's Got Talent" dipped below a 2.1 rating.
Factoring a week of (mostly) DVR catchup, though, 2019 was not the least-watched installment of "AGT," it was by far the lowest rated among the age range most coveted by advertisers.
In those Live + 7 Day ratings, the "America's Got Talent" total audience decline from Seasons 13 to 14 matched the 16.8% drop-off from Seasons 6 to 7. Without that delayed viewing, the Seasons 6-7 decline was slightly worse than this past one.
It's important to stress a few things in NBC's (and Union/Hough's, for that matter) favor here: "Got Talent" is still the summer's most-watched show after 14 seasons. And it wasn't even close: "AGT" towered over ABC's "The Bachelorette" by 3.5 million viewers per episode.
Plus, in terms of total viewers, the Live + 7 Day audience from Season 14 was actually larger than Season 1, when the judges were Piers Morgan, David Hasselhoff and Brandy Norwood). You can't say either of those things about most shows -- and of course, most series don't last anywhere near this long.
Below are the seasonal averages of the summer edition of "AGT," which typically airs on Tuesday nights. (A spinoff show, "America's Got Talent: The Champions," will return for its second season on Jan. 6.)
We color-coded the growth in green and the declines in red, to better illustrate the swings.
Regardless of the ratings troubles with last summer's judge lineup, the ouster of Union and Hough has drawn major blowback -- particularly after Union went public with complaints about fellow judge Simon Cowell smoking on set, an off-color joke made by guest judge Jay Leno, among other issues. The Leno joke, which some people (including Union) have deemed racist, did not make it to air.
Union's husband, former NBA star Dwyane Wade has been outspoken on the issue -- as has former "AGT" judge Howard Stern.
NBC and "AGT" producers said the following in a joint statement on Sunday: "We remain committed to ensuring a respectful workplace for all employees and take very seriously any questions about workplace culture," the trio said Sunday in a joint statement. "We are working with Ms. Union through her representatives to hear more about her concerns, following which we will take whatever next steps may be appropriate."