How Much Longer Will ‘American Idol’ Last?

Back when American Idol first left the airwaves in 2016 after fifteen seasons on Fox, there was already rumblings about it coming back eventually. Even host Ryan Seacrest said on the final night that it would probably be back in some form down the road.

Well, the road wasn’t very long. It only took a year to announce it would return on ABC during the 2017-18 season.

Last year, the ratings for the revival were ok, but far from spectacular. This year, the ratings are plummeting. Is NBC’s The Voice the bigger favorite now?

Comparing the two has a lot to do with the quality of the talent pool.

At one time, ‘Idol’ attracted the best singing talent

Anyone who spent time in an American Idol audition line over a decade ago (or more) will remember how it became THE place to show off your singing skills. While the auditions were always a crazily unbalanced mix of the horrible and the sublime, some of the best singers in America would show up there.

We’ve also seen a number of Idol winners and losers who went on to outstanding careers as singers or just entertainers. Jennifer Hudson and Katharine McPhee are just two names now at the top of the showbiz mountain.

Even some of the bad singers who made their non-talent a novelty managed to sustain careers for a while.

Then there was the realization of just how many singers existed in our country. Pretty soon, they were all canceling one another out.

‘Idol’ and ‘The Voice’ competed for a while

Once NBC green-lighted a competing show called The Voice in 2011, we began to see an apples and oranges comparison. Some people found The Voice a little bit gimmicky in the beginning, including some of the Idol judges criticizing the revolving judging chairs. Randy Jackson, in particular, was known for criticizing The Voice and still likens the original judging panel on American Idol as a precedent setter.

No one will likely argue how much Idol set the path for The Voice. Let’s not forget, though, the shows are about talent. Many of America’s best singers used to go to Idol, yet once they got word of another show available, the audition lines became segmented.

Also, another thing started to happen: The Voice was attracting far more technically superior singers, including allowing slightly older singers to compete.

‘The Voice’ took the ratings crown after ‘Idol’ went off the air

Over the years, The Voice has managed to evolve into a familiar part of our pop culture. The revolving chairs still become the butt of jokes. However, it’s still created a new way to appreciate singing talent without an immediate impression of what someone looks like.

Also, just listen to those fantastic voice talents they’ve discovered since the show began. American Idol couldn’t find singers of this caliber in their latter years. Perhaps one reason is more and more teenagers were auditioning for Idol. These singers just weren’t quite ready for prime-time, despite attracting a younger audience.

It’s true Idol was usually watched primarily by teens during its heyday. The Voice has attracted more adults, which only hurts the ratings on the new Idol reboot. Recent numbers show ABC’s Idol slipping badly compared to its modest ratings last season.

Will ‘Idol’ still survive?

American Idol judges
The judges of “American Idol” | Paula Lobo/ABC via Getty Images

Should the ratings continue to slip for Idol, you have to wonder if ABC will continue to make a commitment. With a lot of the talent there this year still not matching what’s found on The Voice, it’s clear the very best singers know the NBC show is where to find real career nurturing. Plus, having judges like Katy Perry on Idol is very expensive.

The teens who grew up watching the original Idol have also likely matured and realized The Voice is where the best talent is. This isn’t to say Idol won’t receive continual credit for starting the genre.

Regardless, something else almost always comes along and usurps an original concept, including evolving it so it’s exponentially better.