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Clay Aiken – American Idol Suffers Rating Problems

American Idol, the mega-hit music competition, began Season 11 this month.  According to Nielsen numbers, the show may be in real trouble.  There was a 17% drop in the ratings for the premiere.  It was the series’ lowest opening since its first season in the summer of 2002.

If one looks at the numbers closely, the figures are even worse.  Among young adults, ages 18 to 49, the number of viewer dropped 26%. The young adult viewers are the group that Fox and the advertisers care about the most.

The numbers were even worse the second week of the season. The show was down 13.5% from the premiere and 30% from an equivalent show last season.

It might be a bit too soon to predict real trouble, but American Idol was knocked off as the time leader on both Thursdays by the CBS sitcom, The Big Bang Theory.

So…what is wrong with American Idol?  Can this problem be fixed…or is it too late?

The writer, Charlie Toft, felt that there were very clear reasons why Idol is in decline.  He suggested the following problems.

Age. Simply put, Idol is in its eleventh season. Very few series make it to that length, and it’s rare to find any that still have significant ratings momentum after a decade… Even the best contestants and the most heartbreaking personal stories can’t help but remind viewers of those who have come before.

The Glut of Music Competition Shows:  TV now has The X Factor, The Voice, and the music-dominated America’s Got Talent in the summer. The competition makes the level of anticipation rather low.

Other Networks aren’t Afraid Anymore: The fact that CBS moved its most prominent younger show to Thursdays at the same time as Idol, is proof that the fear factor is gone.

There’s no drama behind the scenes to attract viewers. This is the first time since Seasons 6 and 7 that Idol has had consecutive seasons with the same lineup of judges. There was particular curiosity going into last season, the first without Cowell. This season, there’s no need to see how things have changed with the new judges.

Idol isn’t keeping up with broader trends in music. The original Idol formula was simple enough: stand there and sing. The show has expanded to include singer-songwriter types and those who play musical instruments. According to Toft:

Idol has not yet found a way to channel the dominant sound of today’s pop charts, with its guest rappers, use of Autotune, and its emphasis on producers, dance, and electronics.”

Too many recent winners have not become stars.  It’s gotten harder for viewers to buy that there’s anything major at stake in an Idol title.  I am sure most readers could name many winners and runner-ups that just don’t seem like winners.

The Nicey-Nice Judging panel makes for a more boring show. According to Toft:

Some liked Simon Cowell and some hated him, but people definitely paid attention. When he issued a compliment, it had weight because they were so rarely doled out. But the problem with the lack of Simon goes beyond no one wanting to be mean – it’s more than there’s no nuance at all. Mediocre singers and the very best are treated equally. The current panel agrees on almost everything – either three yes votes or three no votes. Serious differences of opinion, or even the sense that someone is being advanced with great misgivings, are almost unheard of now. As The Voice has discovered, a panel where the judges have both credibility and differing sensibilities can be entertainment in itself.”

To be completely up-front, I haven’t watched American Idol for many years.  I loved it when it was a show that looked for the best talent and didn’t allow professionals to be contestants.  And, I will always be thankful for Season II that introduced Clay Aiken to the world.  I am sure that many of you still watch and so I would love to hear from you.

Do you think that Mr. Toft was correct in his list of problems or do you have other ideas about the decline in viewers?


Clay Aiken News Network is an unofficial fansite. We are not affiliated in any way with Clay Aiken or his management. This website was made by fans for fans and makes no impression or impersonation of the official site, which can be found under the domain clayaiken.com.


  1. I've watched a few shows here and there but just has no appeal for me. Some of the guests last
    year were disgusting as far as I'm concerned. Not a fan of the new judges, either.For me, all the
    glitz they are using just doesn't work ! They lost a lot of the Class and simplicity of the first 5 years.
    It worked as long as CLAY showed up somewhere in the show!!!! All downhill after that!!!

  2. I get together with 6 other ladies every week to eat, drink wine and watch the show. 3 of them started it when Clay's season began, I joined a couple years later… we call it Girls' Night!!

  3. I think the judges have for forgot that AI is about the contestence and not about them. J.Lo likes to show off her ward robe. Steven Tyler, I feel became a judge to enhance his career and doesn't bring much to the table…lusting after the young girls is not what a judge does. Randy is still a waste of time..Is anyone else sick of hearing "hey dog"? Ryan Seacrest has gotten stale..same old same old..except he doesn' t have Simon to try to one up each other to see who is the "gayest". After hearing Tyler sing the SSB….how can he judge someone else?…Oh that's right he doesn't. I feel in order for this show to stay revalent AI should get rid of all the judges and the host. Start from scatch by bringing judges who want to judge rather than make the show all about them.

    • Well, I agree on a lot of points, but as the writer pointed out, they have several shows now that have done just that — started from scratch and got judges who just judge (on The Voice they don't even look at them, which is a good idea).

  4. I think he’s got some very good points. The show is 11 seasons old and there is a lot of competition. I disagree about the judges. I like them and haven’t missed Simon one bit.

  5. I'm thinking the best thing to come from American Idol was Clay Aiken. Having never watched the show….I don't really know but he's the only thing I've found so far! 😀

  6. I think his points were excellent. Yours was also, about not allowing professionals — either it's an amateur show or not, how unfair to pit someone with years of training and/or experience against kids with none!

    Also agree with "They lost a lot of the Class and simplicity of the first 5 years. It worked as long as CLAY showed up somewhere in the show!!!!" They did use him, LOL – 3 years! Bet they only stopped because he got out of the contract.

    I also agree with "haven't missed Simon one bit." I stopped watching because he just got too mean. Plus, the audition segments grew stagey (so he could be mean), and it was obvious the award was going to the contestant he wanted, regardless (it's his company's money, of course), and he doesn't need to be there to control that.

    I've heard good things about new judges, and Steven's quotes are hilarious, so I was going to watch again. Otherwise, I don't care about voice competitions; for me it's: Idol found, game over!!!

  7. These are the things that turned me off of American Idol–the audition shows–boring and the same old thing year after year. The judges and host–making it about themselves. The present judges are boring, boring, boring. The contestants–too many semi-professionals who have been in musicals and had previous recording contracts. The judges outwardly calling someone the winner way before the show was over then pimping the person they want to win. Unfair judging comments–giving tongue baths to the people they want to win and coming down on the ones they want to see go home. Ignoring the voters by not promoting the winners and promoting their own choices.

  8. Same o, same o with AI. The producers and judges are so transparent, and ridiculous that I can't stand to watch.

  9. I have not watched the show this year. It seems for the last couple of years, singers who had a CD to promote showed up each week. The finale was 2 hrs about professionals (i.e. Lady Gaga, etc.) performing and not so much about who won the contest. I agree with what Toft has to say about the show. I'll wait for Clay on CA and his new CD and hopefully a tour.

  10. I tried to watch a few minutes the other night and just could not get past one of the young contestants trying to get a kiss from Tyler. just ewwwww I turned and watched a rerun of NCIS.

    Granted – I will always be thankful for AI giving us Clay Aiken. So to that I can say, Thank You, but now, I'm done.

  11. Idol lost me after season 5. Just have no interest in it whatsoever. I'm thankful for it as we got Clay Aiken, but it can go away now. It's so overrated and transparent now I just can't watch these kids get sucked into it.


  13. The whole show is old and stale. I mean, come on, how long do they think they can survive. I have no suggestions for them…just waiting for them to go off the air. They never have one of their best stars from the show on…one Mr. Clay Aiken. The reason they don't have him on any more is because he got out of his contract. Well, good for him.

  14. I think Mr. Toft's reasons make a lot of sense. Another reason I see is that the contestants are more professional then they were in the earlier seasons. In Clay's season you had a hair dresser, a Marine, a special ed teacher, etc.. They were truely undiscovered talent, regular people with regular jobs and the public was interested in seeing how they would progress and grow throughout the competition. Now since a lot of the contestants have so much more experience and polish, it's not the same as finding raw talent from the guy or girl next door.

  15. One more point someone touched on. The weekly guests are there to promote their own cd's. That would be acceptable if these were past show finalists, but to bring in all the already popular acts from Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, and others only demonstrates the producers don't have enough faith in their own former contestants to be appealing. And the final show should include ONLY former contestants! Former contestants should have equal opportunities to perform. The show will only stay relevant if they can promote their own. Get rid of the dancers and others who are not necessary…concentrate on the singing!

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