Fox tries to lift ratings of sagging "American Idol"

Tue Mar 12, 2013 10:28pm EDT
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By Lisa Richwine

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The microphone that singers on Fox television's "American Idol" will use for a live broadcast on Wednesday has traveled to Hollywood after an Olympic torch-style journey through 13 cities.

Producers hope the "Idol Across America" relay helps build enthusiasm for the rest of the 12th season of the long-time TV ratings champ, which has seen viewership fall over the past six years. This season's finale is scheduled for May.

Last year, the show that launched the careers of Kelly Clarkson and Jennifer Hudson lost its eight-year-old title as the most-watched series on U.S. television when it fell behind NBC's "Sunday Night Football."

Ratings slipped again when the 12th season began in January, with season-to-date viewership down roughly 20 percent overall and in the 18 to 49 age group that advertisers most want, despite a revamped judges panel and new interactive features.

Among 18- to 49-year-olds, "Idol" on Wednesday ranks third this season behind "Sunday Night Football" and CBS comedy "The Big Bang Theory." The Thursday broadcast comes in sixth, with ABC comedy "Modern Family" in fourth place and Monday night's "The Voice" at No. 5, according to ratings data provided by Fox, a unit of News Corp. This season of Idol ends in

"You look at the declines and you get a little bit concerned when you see double-digit drops," said Jason Maltby, who purchases commercial time for advertisers as the lead TV ad buyer at Mindshare.

"You wonder how much of it is due to personality changes and how much is due to how long it's been on the air. Has it started to run its course?" he said.

To freshen the broadcast, "Idol" for the first time replaced three judges in one move, leaving only Randy Jackson, who has assessed the talent since the show's 2002 debut. Producers brought in judges from different musical styles - pop diva Mariah Carey, hip-hop star Nicki Minaj and country singer Keith Urban.   Continued...

Judges Randy Jackson (L-R), Mariah Carey, Keith Urban, Nicki Minaj and host Ryan Seacrest attend a Fox panel for the television series "American Idol" at the 2013 Winter Press Tour for the Television Critics Association in Pasadena, California January 8, 2013. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni