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‘American Idol’ will return, but this time on ABC

The "American Idol" series finale in 2016 with appearances by, from left, Katharine McPhee, Casey James, Carly Smithson, Jessica Sanchez, Clay Aiken, Ruben Studdard and Amber Holcomb.
The “American Idol” series finale in 2016 with appearances by, from left, Katharine McPhee, Casey James, Carly Smithson, Jessica Sanchez, Clay Aiken, Ruben Studdard and Amber Holcomb.
(Matt Sayles / Invision/AP)

Apparently, you can’t keep a good singing competition down.

Ending days of rumors and speculation, ABC announced Monday morning on “Good Morning America” that it has struck a deal to bring “American Idol” back for the 2017-18 season, which is not far removed from the end of its 15-season run on Fox last year.

“’American Idol’ is a pop-culture staple that left the air too soon,” said ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey. “We are thrilled viewers will once again share in these inspiring stories of people realizing their dreams.”

“American Idol” premiered on Fox in 2002 and grew to become a ratings machine for the network, which rode its popularity to a No. 1 ranking among viewers aged 18 to 49. At the height of its popularity, the series dominated television with an average of roughly 30 million viewers a week, earning the nickname “the Death Star” from rival programmers. The show also made household names of contestants such as Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Jennifer Hudson and Clay Aiken and served as a career launching pad for many others, including Katharine McPhee, Fantasia Barrino and Lauren Alaina.

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But in its later years, “Idol” winners and contestants made less of an impression on the pop music landscape, and in its final season in 2016 the show had dipped to drawing, on average, just over 9 million viewers per episode.

While that constitutes a steep drop by “American Idol” standards, those numbers aren’t far from the top among ABC’s current lineup. On Monday, the network’s unscripted hit “Dancing With the Stars” earned 9.9 million viewers, enough to be the most viewed show of the night.

Still unclear is who will else will be on hand for a reboot. Longtime host Ryan Seacrest recently joined the ABC fold with his new morning gig on “Live With Kelly and Ryan,” which is produced in New York. (“Idol” was primarily filmed in Los Angeles.) But when asked by co-host Kelly Ripa — an “Idol” superfan — he sounded uncertain of his ability to juggle his new duties as well as his morning radio show with “Idol.” “Do you know the preparation I have to do for this show [‘Live’] every night?” Seacrest said.

Equally uncertain is who will sit at the judges’ table, which in seasons past included Simon Cowell — who is likely not an option since he currently toils for NBC on “America’s Got Talent” — Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul and, in its final year, Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr.

See the most-read stories in Entertainment this hour »

chris.barton@latimes.com

Follow me over here @chrisbarton.

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