‘American Idol’ median viewer age hits 40


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Oh, no! Is ‘American Idol’ getting ... middle-aged?

Fox’s singing competition returned for its eighth season Tuesday with a total audience of 30.4 million viewers, or a 9% decline compared with last year’s launch, according to Nielsen Media Research.

But a more arresting detail is buried within the numbers. Tuesday’s audience was the oldest ever for an ‘Idol’ season opener, with a median age of 40.3 years. That’s quite a bit older than the ‘Idol’ contestants, who are all in their teens or 20s.


‘Idol’ has been ‘aging up,’ as they say in the TV business, every year. The series premiere, back in June 2002, had a median viewer age of 29.5. By the Season 4 opener, in January 2005, the median viewer was 35. Last year, the figure had crept up to 38.2.

This matters because young people tend to drive entertainment trends and fads in this country, and if they’re exiting a show such as ‘Idol,’ the show may finally be beginning to lose its grip on pop culture. Also, the age question presents a thorny issue for the show’s producers, with the generational disconnect between the performers and the audience already evident. Last year, teenager David Archuleta and other contestants admitted to sketchy familiarity with some songs that are baby boomer touchstones, including those of an obscure British band called the Beatles.

All this may help explain the producers’ decision this season to hire a fourth judge, Kara DioGuardi, who happens to be the youngest of the panel at age 38. Luckily for ‘Idol,’ its median viewer is still younger than Paula Abdul (46), Simon Cowell (49) or Randy Jackson (52).

-- Scott Collins