Fox Looks at Changing American Idol Audition Shows

Network Looks to Stem Eroding Ratings for Pre-Hollywood Episodes
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There are still 20 contestants remaining in this season’s cycle of American Idol, but Fox executives are already looking ahead to changes for next year.

Preston Beckman, the network’s executive vice president of strategic program planning and research, said he wants to see adjustments to the audition shows that kick off the ratings behemoth every year.

“It won’t necessarily be anything radical; we just have to figure out how to start the show next year,” said Beckman, who’s looking for a way to stem a ratings drop the network saw last month. “The early part saw some erosion and then we got to Hollywood.”

That “erosion” includes this year’s premiere, which earned a 14.4 rating in the adult 18-49 demo, down from a 16.1 last year. Viewership also dipped from 38 million to 34.5 million -- numbers that nevertheless make every other network salivate.

Beckman said it is far too early to talk about any specific changes, but the show is heavily tested through market research and that will help to guide the plans. This year, the show has been shamelessly pushing the level of the talent pool after last year’s Sanjaya Malakar sideshow.

But he was not concerned about the franchise overall, which continues to dominate in its seventh season.

“The good news is that there is still enormous sentiment for the show,” he said. “If you listen to the audience, you will generally be fine.”