‘American Idol’ finale ratings: The decline of the ‘death star’

The two-hour season finale of Fox’s"American Idol” was the least watched finale in the show’s history with a smaller audience than even Season 1’s finale — which aired in the summer.

Fox projected that 21.5-million people tuned in to see Phillip Phillips get voted the winner of the 11th season finale of the singing competition. The star-studded show also featured appearances by John Fogerty, Rhianna and Reba McEntire. “American Idol” judge Steven Tyler also performed with his band Aerosmith.

Those numbers, while still strong by the standards of today’s fractured media landscape, represent a 26% drop from last season’s finale, which had an audience of almost 30 million. In its first season, which was during the summer of 2002, the finale of “American Idol” averaged 23 million viewers. That show aired in early September when television watching is lower than the late spring.

While 21.5-million viewers still represents a big number, it will also be seen as another sign that the program is no longer the “death star,” as it once was described by a rival network executive.


The growth of musical talent shows, including NBC’s"The Voice” and Fox’s own"The X Factor,” appears to have taken a toll on “American Idol.” Even traditional sitcoms, which “American Idol” used to eat for lunch, don’t run from the show anymore. ABC’s"Modern Family” had a strong season going against “American Idol.”

While Wednesday’s ratings clearly indicate “American idol” is showing its age, the show is still a massive hit, with tremendous staying power for its age.

On the business side, “American Idol” is still a cash cow for the network. Fox executives have promised to fine-tune “American Idol” in the off-season. The show also has to figure out whether Jennifer Lopez will return as a judge.



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