American Idol to return to TV

ABC said it would revive American Idol during the 2017-2018 television season.
ABC said it would revive American Idol during the 2017-2018 television season.PHOTO: REUTERS

ABC will revive the former Fox hit as American TV networks bet on proven formulas to arrest a decline in viewership

NEW YORK • American Idol, the genre-shattering singing competition show that went off the air just a year ago because of falling ratings, is coming back to television on ABC.

It is a telling sign that the big four American TV networks are increasingly betting on proven formulas - even if they might have lost some steam along the way - to try to arrest a decline in overall viewership.

ABC said on Tuesday's Good Morning America that it would revive the former Fox hit during the 2017-2018 television season.

It did not name a host or say who the judges would be.

Ryan Seacrest, the long-time host of Idol, joined ABC and Disney's syndicated morning show Live last week.

The revival of Idol is a head-spinning move, even by the standards of broadcast networks desperately searching for a hit.

But these are tough times in broadcast television.

In the last three years, ratings among adults under 50 have declined 24 per cent as other options such as streaming services rope in more converts.

Idol, which debuted in 2002, was a once dominant ratings player for Fox and inspired a wave of amateur talent shows. But over its last few seasons - as it cycled through judges and as rival shows like The Voice slowed its momentum - the audience collapsed.

The final Idol episode was aired in April last year.

But in the time since, as ratings have plunged, the big four networks have turned to reboots in the hopes of regaining viewers.

Fox has brought back old properties such as 24, Lethal Weapon and Prison Break to fill the Idol gap.

Will And Grace returns to NBC in the fall while Roseanne is probably coming back with ABC in the next television season.

CBS, meanwhile, had made versions of Training Day and MacGyver this past season.

Even Love Connection is being revived, with Andy Cohen serving as host on a Fox reboot.

But those shows - or the movie revivals - had been dormant for years.

Though series like Nashville and The Mindy Project were cancelled by network TV and found new life elsewhere (on CMT and Hulu), it is exceedingly rare for a network show to return this quickly - and on a rival network.

ABC made the decision to bring back Idol just a week before its annual showcase for advertisers regarding its upcoming shows.

Until a few weeks ago, NBC was also in negotiations for Idol.

But ABC ultimately won the rights from the show's producers, FremantleMedia North America and 19 Entertainment.

At its height, Idol was one of the most dominant TV shows, sometimes drawing more than 30 million viewers a night.

It was also a juggernaut for the music industry and a path to career success for aspiring singers. To be minted on Idol, like Carrie Underwood, was a path to becoming a star.

Those days have long passed.

Still, Idol averaged more than 11 million viewers in its final season, a respectable showing, and was one of the top-rated shows among adults under 50, according to Nielsen's data.

Whether those numbers are sustainable, or if more people were tuning in because Idol was in its final season, will soon be determined.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 11, 2017, with the headline 'American Idol to return to TV'. Print Edition | Subscribe