After one of the most dominant runs in television history, American Idol will not return after its 15th season this January, Fox announced Monday. Host Ryan Seacrest – the only on-screen talent that has been with the show since its 2002 debut – and the current judges’ table of Jennifer Lopez, Harry Connick Jr. and Keith Urban will be along for Idol‘s last ride.
Fox added that the singing competition series that unearthed Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Jennifer Hudson, Chris Daughtry and Adam Lambert would stage a “season-long celebratory event” in its last season alongside their search for “the final Idol superstar.” Idol winners have combined for a total of 13 Grammys, led by Underwood’s seven. However, the series hasn’t discovered an award winner in nearly a decade.
After the emergence of Clarkson and Underwood, the show hit its ratings peak in its fifth season in 2006 with a weekly average of 31.1 million viewers. However, ratings slowly declined in subsequent years after constant shakeups at the judges’ table – Paula Abdul’s exit shifted the show’s chemistry, as did Ellen DeGeneres’ one-season cameo – and an inability to luck upon another platinum-selling star (Remember Lee DeWyze?).
The show’s true decline began in 2010, though, after its main antagonist Simon Cowell departed to join rival Fox singing competition The X Factor. Although that series lasted only three seasons in the U.S., Cowell never returned to Idol. The emergence of other music competition shows like The X Factor and NBC’s successful The Voice also oversaturated the market, leading to a downturn in Idol viewership.
Although Idol found some stability in recent years with their Lopez/Connick Jr./Urban panel, viewership continued to plummet, averaging a low of only 11 million viewers for their current 14th season. While that number would still make for a successful network sitcom, the costs and salaries that went into Idol were prohibitively expensive to keep the show on-air (even though, as Billboard noted, the judges took a slight salary cut to return for Season 15).
Idol‘s required two-nights-a-week, three-hour hold on the schedule also handcuffed Fox from adding shows that could grow viewership instead of waiting for Idol to eventually bottom out. This past year, Fox found reliable audiences with scripted programs like Empire and Gotham, which further loosened their dependence on stalwart Idol. Despite its decline in recent years, Idol will be remembered for spawning dozens of copycats in the reality TV field as well as the talented singers it helped discover.