When “American Idol” ended on FOX last year, a lot of TV-industry types doubted the show would be gone for good.
Turns out the skepticism was well-placed: Less than a year after “Idol” left FOX, NBC is talking with producer Fremantle Media about reviving the show, according to Variety.
The initial reaction to the news seems to range from “Huh?” to “Go home, NBC, you’re drunk.” And there certainly are ways an “Idol” revival could go spectacularly, network-damagingly wrong.
But if a deal is worked out, and if NBC plays its cards the right way (both rather large “ifs” at this point), a returning “American Idol” could make some sense.
A arguments on either side of a revival:
1. ‘Idol’s’ time has passed
Yes: When “American Idol” ended last season, it was a shadow of its former world-beating self. It averaged just a 2.2 rating in adults 18-49 (combined numbers for both weekly episodes) and 9.22 million viewers in the overnight ratings. What was once the No. 1 show on all of TV wasn’t even No. 1 on its own network anymore.
But …: Both the Wednesday and Thursday editions of “Idol” ranked in the Top 20 in adults 18-49 and the Top 25 in viewers last season. Those same numbers would be in the Top 20 again for 2016-17.
2. NBC already has ‘The Voice’
Yes: Both editions of “The Voice” last season outperformed “Idol,” and you could also argue that the show helped play a role in “Idol’s” downfall. The latter’s biggest season-to-season ratings decline came in 2012, when “The Voice” first aired at the same time of year (aside from a handful of occasions, the two never aired directly opposite each other). “Idol” ratings fell 30 percent that season.
But …: NBC has also not made a secret of the fact that it would like to scale back “The Voice” to one cycle per TV season. “Idol” and “The Voice” had roughly the same footprint on their respective networks’ schedules, so it could fairly easily plug into the current “Voice” spring spot without much ratings dropoff.
3. TV viewers have competition fatigue
Yes: Broadcast TV ratings are in a years-long decline, and competition shows haven’t been immune to that. “The Voice’s” fall edition, for instance, was down about 15 percent combined vs. fall 2015. “Survivor” and “Dancing with the Stars” have fallen as well.
And, not for nothing, but that steep 2012 decline for “American Idol” also came in the same season that FOX launched “The X Factor” in the fall. It’s next to impossible to prove causation as regards movement in TV ratings, but the saturation of the market in 2011-12 may have played a part.
But …: This may be the hardest argument to counter, actually. The broadcast world is just not as welcoming to any show as it was even a few years ago. “Idol” in a new place will still be the “Idol” most people knew. That will be good news for fans who thought it left too soon. The rest of the viewing public probably won’t care much.