Results are now more popular than singing on American Idol; ratings are down but revenue up

American Idol‘s decreasing ratings have had strange effects on the show: its revenue is up, more votes are being received, and more people are watching the results shows than the performance episodes. That’s in part due to the increased age of average viewers.

While Ryan Seacrest likes to lie and say that 30 million people a week watch the show, that was only true three years ago. Now, fewer than 25 million people do–which still makes it television’s top-rated show. But there’s something even more interesting in the numbers: Last week, 23.57 million watched the results show, but only 22.64 million watched the actual performances, according to TV By the Numbers. Since season one, performances have consistently been more popular than the results; last year, the performance and results episodes were the country’s most-popular TV shows, in that order.

So why would anyone tune in to watch the time-wasting filler? Because the show’s audience is getting older–the average viewer was 40.3 at the start of this season but is now 42.9–and old people like to watch the old musicians that the show reanimates and allows to perform on Wednesdays.

At least, that’s The Los Angeles Times’ Scott Collins’ theory: “It’s likely that ‘Idol’s’ increasingly middle-aged audience is tuning in Wednesdays to catch oldies acts like Houston, ’60s idol Frankie Avalon and Smokey Robinson. It was the kids who were most attached to the competition itself, and they’re beginning to lose interest.”

Despite that aging, those who vote are voting more than ever. Last week, a (non-finale) record 64 million votes were received. American Idol 8 also has a more significant lead over the number two show, 66 percent more viewers (compared to seven percent in season three).

That’s according to a New York Times report that looks at why “[d]espite losing viewers in each of the last three years, ‘American Idol,’ still the top-rated series on television, is generating ever-growing profits for its creators and, it appears, for Fox Broadcasting through brand extensions, marketing arrangements and licensing fees.” The paper illustrates the trend in a graph.

For the network, the series made $903 million from advertisements alone last year, and that “[does] not include Fox’s ancillary sponsorship deals and other income, like royalties it receives from the sale of music performances by ‘Idol’ contestants.” In addition, the show’s owner, parent company 19 Entertainment, had “revenues from ‘American Idol’ [that] alone grew to $96 million last year from $67 million two years earlier, with gross profit margins expanding to 77 percent from 69 percent in that span,” according to the paper.

Despite Lower Ratings, Cash Flow Rises for ‘Idol’ [New York Times]
‘American Idol’ sweats to the oldies as young viewers flee [Los Angeles Times]

Review: Married at First Sight

Marriage At First Sight

In an era of Tinder and Grindr, instant acceptance or dismissal of a potential partner, or instant sex with another body, Married at First Sight offers the thrill of watching strangers deal with the very basics of relationships.

Beyond the headline-grabbing premise, the series has turned out to be a stripped-down, authentic exploration of something very interesting. Read the full review.

about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.