Appearing before TV critics on Monday, this season's judges — pop superstar Jennifer Lopez, country singer Keith Urban and
crooner Harry Connick Jr. — emphasized their chemistry and a
shared commitment to focusing on the young singers competing for
a chance at stardom.
"I am lucky enough to sit between two people I respect and I
have a good time with and all know music and love this journey,"
Lopez, returning to the show after a one-year absence, said at
the Television Critics Association press tour. "I think that's
what's going to make it sparkly and fresh and new again."
"Idol" erupted in 2001 as a broadcast TV powerhouse with the
biting commentary of one of its original judges, Simon Cowell.
Last season, tension between judges Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj
made headlines, taking attention away from the talent.
The average audience size for "Idol" dropped by 9.9 million
viewers over the past three seasons, from 23.1 million in 2011
to 13.2 million last year, according to Nielsen data provided by
Horizon Media. Declining ratings dragged on advertising revenue
for the quarter ending in June 2013 at the Fox broadcast
network's parent 21st Century Fox, the company reported in
Fox hopes the audience will gravitate to kinder, gentler judges,
not unlike the atmosphere at NBC's "The Voice," which returns in
late February and has thrived on the camaraderie among its
judges including Adam Levine, CeeLo Green, Christina Aguilera
and Blake Shelton.
"The X Factor," another of Fox's singing competitions produced
by former "American Idol" judge Cowell, could be on the chopping
block after it "underperformed" in ratings last year, said Kevin
Reilly, chairman of entertainment for Fox Broadcasting Company.
Reilly said he had not yet decided whether to renew "X Factor"
for another season.
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"I wish 'The Voice' would go away first," he joked.
"The space is crowded. That has certainly led to further stress on
"Idol" changed part of its format for this season, shortening the
middle rounds. Viewers will see less of the "sort of ridiculous
contestants" featured on earlier seasons, Reilly said. The show
found more of its competitors this year through bus tours sent to
find talent in corners of the country outside of major cities.
"Idol" viewership likely will slip again this season, a typical
scenario for aging reality shows such as "Survivor" and "The
Bachelor," Reilly said. But he hopes the "Idol" audience will
flatten and maintain a steady fan base.
Even with its declining audience, "Idol" finished as the
fifth-highest rated show last season, excluding football, among
adults age 18 to 49.
"It has a lot of room to fall and still be among the biggest hits on
TV," Reilly said. "Do I want it be dropping 25 to 30 percent? No."
(Reporting by Lisa Richwine; editing by
Ronald Grover and Cynthia Osterman)
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