In 2013, "American Idol" is getting its lowest ratings in several years, and the show is unlikely to finish the season as America's No. 1 prime-time entertainment network series — a lofty position that "American Idol" had since 2004. There are several reasons for why "American Idol" has lost millions of viewers in a short period of time. And these are the same reasons that could lead to the cancellation of "The X Factor" U.S.
"American Idol" (which premiered in 2002) and "The X Factor" U.S. (which premiered in 2011) are both televised in the U.S. on Fox. The two shows also share a production company (FremantleMedia North America), but "American Idol's" other production company is 19 Entertainment (which was founded by Simon Fuller), while "The X Factor's" other production company is Syco Entertainment (which is co-owned by Simon Cowell and Sony Music).
Cowell was a judge on "American Idol" from 2002 to 2010. He quit the show to launch "The X Factor" U.S., and he has been a longtime rival of Fuller. As of now, Cowell is the only judge who is guaranteed to return to "The X Factor" in 2013. The replacements for Britney Spears and L.A. Reid haven't been named yet. And it hasn't been announced yet if Demi Lovato will continue to be a judge on the show in 2013. The entire "X Factor" U.S. judging panel for 2013 should be announced by May.
It's no secret that ratings for "The X Factor" U.S. haven't even come close to what "American Idol" gets on its lowest-rated episodes. In fact, ratings for "The X Factor" U.S. decreased a whopping 25 percent in its second season in 2012. According to the Nielsen Company, "The X Factor" U.S. averaged 12 million U.S. viewers per episode in its first season in 2011. By the show's second season in 2012, the ratings had dropped to an average of 8 million U.S. viewers per episode.
The ratings for "American Idol" peaked in 2006, when the show averaged 30 million U.S. viewers per episode. In 2013, "American Idol" is averaging 15 million U.S. viewers per episode so far, and the ratings continue to decrease.
The year 2013 is a "make or break" year for "The X Factor" U.S., which sources say was close to being cancelled in 2012 but was saved by Fox on condition that the show drastically reduce its spending. However, if ratings for the show continue to drop at the same alarming rate as they did in 2012, then the third season of "The X Factor" U.S. could be its last.
With "American Idol" in its own ratings crisis (but "American Idol" is unlikely to get cancelled in 2013), here are some mistakes that "American Idol" made in 2013 that shouldn't be made by "The X Factor" U.S. in this "make or break" year:
1. Hiring a controversial, unqualified celebrity in a desperate attempt to get younger viewers
For "American Idol," it's Nicki Minaj. For "The X Factor" U.S., it was Khloe Kardashian. Based on the countless viewer complaints that "American Idol" is getting in 2013, Nicki Minaj as an "American Idol" judge is the biggest mistake and turnoff that "American Idol" has ever made. Minaj is so disliked by many "American Idol" viewers that many have said they are no longer watching the show because of her. It's no wonder that "American Idol" has lost millions of viewers since Minaj has been a judge on the show. Many people think Minaj is a horrible mismatch for "American Idol" because she's a rapper with just two studio albums so far, and "American Idol" doesn't even allow rappers to be contestants on the show.
Countless "American Idol" viewers have described Minaj as "unprofessional" and "unqualified," and they think her personality is "extremely annoying." When news broke that Minaj was in talks to become a judge on "American Idol," millions of viewers protested to "American Idol" and said they would boycott the show if she became an "American Idol" judge. "American Idol" bosses foolishly ignored that feedback, and the show is paying the price by losing millions of viewers in a short period of time.
"The X Factor" U.S. made a similar mistake in 2012 by hiring Khloe Kardashian as co-host of the show. Kardashian had never hosted a TV show before she joined "The X Factor." Countless viewers protested and complained about Kardashian even before she was hired — and the show's ratings immediately dropped even more after Kardashian joined "The X Factor."
Just like Minaj, Kardashian turned off viewers with her unprofessional behavior, irritating personality, lack of experience and tacky fashion choices. Minaj inappropriately flirted with contestants. Kardashian inappropriately flirted with "X Factor" boss Cowell. Other similar complaints about Minaj and Kardashian were about their rude and impatient behavior. (Cowell is rude and impatient too, but he has decades of success in the music industry and discovering hit artists to justify his qualifications as a talent-show judge.) Although "The X Factor" U.S. won't say yet who's hosting the show in 2013, all indications are that Kardashian has been fired and Mario Lopez is likely to continue as host of the show.
2. Over-paying a superstar to be a judge but the superstar turns out to be a boring judge
For "American Idol," it's Mariah Carey. For "The X Factor" U.S., it was Britney Spears. Carey's "American Idol" salary is reportedly $18 million, while "The X Factor" reportedly paid Spears $15 million. As both shows learned the hard way, having a superstar on the judging panel is not a guarantee that ratings will increase. Ratings can, in fact, decrease when a superstar is on the judging panel. To "American Idol's" credit, Carey is a much more credible and more intelligent judge than Spears, but Carey is not the ratings savior that "American Idol" expected.
Thankfully, Spears won't be a judge on "The X Factor" U.S. anymore (she announced her departure in January 2013), but the show would be better served to place more importance on who would be the best fit on the judging panel rather than fixating on getting the biggest celebrity name possible on the panel. Sources have told me that due to budget cuts, whoever replaces Spears on "The X Factor" will not be paid nearly as much has her reported $15 million salary. That's a step in the right direction only if the judge has great chemistry with the other judges, has credible qualifications, and is well-liked by viewers.
3. Letting the contestants sing too many ballads
In the "sudden death" elimination episodes on "American Idol" in 2013, the vast majority of the contestants sang ballads, thereby making these episodes a snoozefest. And the plummeting ratings for those episodes showed that many people were so bored, turned off or uninterested that they didn't bother to tune in to "American Idol." So far, "The X Factor" has a good balance of ballads and uptempo songs in every episode. Let's hope that "The X Factor" keeps that type of variety. Most viewers don't want to see an episode filled with weepy, depressing ballads.
4. Choosing contestants with questionable talent because they might be considered "freaky" and controversial
Controversy may get more publicity for a TV show, but that doesn't necessarily translate into higher ratings. In 2013, viewers loudly protested that "American Idol" contestants Zoanette Johnson (who looks like a drag queen and who shouted more than she sang) and Josh “JDA” Davila (who actually is a drag queen and sang off-key more than not) were chosen over contestants with better vocal talent. It hasn't been made public how much the "American Idol" producers have a say in letting these contestants through to the next round, but many viewers believe that the show's producers, not the judges, make the final decisions on which contestants get chosen. Davila and Johnson were eventually eliminated and didn't make it into the Top 10, but the damage has already been done with viewers who were turned off that these types of contestants got as far as the Top 40 in the competition.
5. Focusing too much on sob stories instead of talent as a reason to keep a contestant
This is an ongoing complaint about "The X Factor" and "American Idol," but "American Idol" really poured on the "sob story" element in 2013 even more than the show did in recent years. It's a huge turn-off to the majority of viewers, who say that they want to see more singing and less sob stories on these talent shows.