LEFT COAST BIAS: New Fox Market Research Survey Shows Possible Idol Fixes
Fox Executives Not Standing Pat; Researching Ways to Improve American Idol
By Ben Grossman -- Broadcasting & Cable, 4/27/2008 1:00:00 PM
American Idol and the executives from its network don’t live in a Fox hole -- they’ve seen the ratings. The numbers are down, but Fox execs aren’t just standing around staring aimlessly off into space like Idol robo-contestant David Archuleta.
Now, let’s be clear: It’s comical that anyone thinks Fox should hit the panic button for a seven-year-old show that still gets 25 million viewers despite making kids sing Dolly Parton songs with a straight face.
I got my grubby little fingers on an online market research survey Fox put into play last week, and its execs are looking at every aspect of how to plug this ratings leak. The network has been doing online polling for three years because it is cheap and easy, but now the stakes are getting higher as viewership gets lower.
“We’re not in denial,” Fox scheduling chief Preston Beckman told me. “It’s still the biggest show on TV, but that doesn’t mean there are things we can’t do. The feedback from this year you’ll probably see on the show next year.”
The online survey asks basic questions like whether viewers like the show more or less than last year. But it is the specific questions that indicate where the network is targeting change.
Beckman told me months ago that Fox is looking at tweaking Idol’s early stages next year, so that is nothing new. Therefore, the questions about the length and the tone of the auditions and subsequent Hollywood round are unsurprising.
But one question in the survey gives clues about one route they may be considering. The question asks, “Suppose the first few weeks of American Idol started in Hollywood with flashbacks of the auditions; would that increase or decrease your enjoyment of American Idol?”
Now I don’t really understand what that means, and I watch the show every week. It sounds like some trippy thing from ABC’s underrated prophet-drama, Eli Stone. Then again, anytime you mention the word “flashbacks” and Paula Abdul is involved, good television will probably ensue.
While the survey probes whether there is too much or too little banter between the judges, other questions drill down specifically on host Ryan Seacrest. Is there too much Ryan? Is there not enough Ryan? Should he bring back “Seacrest Out!” to close every show? OK, that last one’s not really in there, but you know my vote.
Beckman says the polling is used to probe countless what-if scenarios. And if the results go strongly one way or the other, they are taken to producers and Fox alternative chief Mike Darnell.
Several questions in the survey blatantly ask for new ideas, so this viewer will throw out a couple. First off, stop with the single-artist theme weeks. At least the ones with artists over the age of 142. I get that these are deals cut to coincide with new albums dropping like this week’s Neil Diamond theme. But most of these contestants probably think “Sweet Caroline” was one of Elliot Spitzer’s girls.
Also, my wife doesn’t bring much enjoyment to my marriage, but she did point out recently that virtually every American Idol performance over the years is on YouTube. That got me thinking, as Fox tries to remind everyone how good the talent is on this show, that it’s time for a contest where fans can pick the best single performance of all-time. It would present great digital tie-ins to drive Web and mobile traffic and remind fans that the show’s legacy is more Kelly Clarkson than Sanjaya.
For the record, my winner would be Carrie Underwood doing “Could’ve Been” by Tiffany in season four. Man, do I hope none of my golfing buddies read my column this week.
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Robert Lewis - 5/2/2008 9:34:00 PM EDT
Who is the girl that forgot the words, she needs to go, I don''t know how she made it thus far. Her voice is not worthy, she bores me. I really don''t like anyone that is left and they booted Carlie!!??!!! I think the young girls are voting for the guy with the dreads and he can''t sing either, he has never showcased his voice, there are many people who can sing like him, it is very unfortunate that no one on this show is going to be successful. People need to start voting again for the best voice and give someone who actually has talent a chance. I think this year was a total waste and I do speed through the Tivo because I can''t stand it. I wish Neil Daimond himself would have performed the songs last night, I would have been much more entertained. The only person I think that deserves to win right now is the black chick, and if you are reading this sorry I don''t know your name, and Paris was much better then her! Nobody is coming out and WOWING THE AUDIENCE, THAT IS WHAT I WANT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
.....and what was up with Paula, 1 song, 2 songs, where am I, DUH!!!
Betty Rubble - 4/30/2008 9:16:00 PM EDT
I would love to see the voting be done the way Pop Idol was originally done in England. You voted for the person you wanted voted off. This would take care of all the split voting.
L.. Freeman - 4/30/2008 7:08:00 PM EDT
The only way to fix the show is to change the voting procedure. If people voted for the person they wanted to be eliminated it would prevent many of the better performers from being sent home early because voters might feel they are "safe."
Sarah - 4/30/2008 1:32:00 PM EDT
I'm a 60 year old senior who enjoys the show but enough with the annual popularity contests...like dancing with the stars, have the judges option COUNT for something and make it 50% of score + votes the other 50%! Any way to limit voting per source also? Technology probably not there yet. Also, get rid of those stupid questions to judges!!! I do not watch for Ryan so less of him is fine...have mentors also sit with judges though all will probably say everyone is just great and not add value...
gwen mccarthy - 4/29/2008 9:24:00 PM EDT
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