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ABC is Thisclose to Reviving American Idol on Sundays

Image result for american idol ryan seacrest

Written Tone Deaf by Bridger Cunningham

Per variety, ABC has won the bidding war for an American Idol revival against contenders NBC and FOX.  NBC negotiations hit an impasse in February despite having former host Simon Cowell under contract.  Earlier this week, ABC entered the arena and appears to have the suitable conditions for Idol to return.  Also discussed is the return of Ryan Seacrest, whom earlier this week was announced as Michael Strahan's predecessor on Kelly Ripa's chatterbox, Live with Kelly.  ABC's proposal would place American Idol on Sundays beginning in March 2018, a welcome change for both the network and the franchise.

American Idol holds a unique place in FOX and television history, redefining both the perennially 4th place network and sculpting the reality TV direction of the 2000's.  Debuting in summer 2002, the first season sparked buzz and ignited the career of America's sweetheart, Kelly Clarkson.  The series returned during the mainstreamed 2002-03 season, igniting ratings and becoming the network's leading program through 2013.  The 2007-08 Writer's Strike left a scarcity of available programming, cementing not only Idol's position as the 1st and 2nd place programs for the season, but also the first time FOX ever rose to prominence as the 1st Place network to dethrone CBS's stranglehold.

The changes are beneficial for all parties, and here is why:

1. The franchise will have rested for two years if it debuts in spring 2018.  For years, AI dominated the airwaves until NBC debuted the Voice in 2012.  Ratings slowly regressed, hitting icebergs as hosts did not click.  Jennifer Lopez, Steven Tyler and Keith Urban made dynamite replacements for Paula Abdul, Simon Cowell and Randy Jackson.  But lest forget the narcissistic feud between divas Mariah Carey and Nicky Minaj in 2014.  Their upstage of the show vs. the talents began a sharp plummet in the ratings.  By 2018, that will be a mere memory in a textbook.  With enough time retired, Idol stands in a marketable place for renewed interest.

2. NBC's the Voice is fading.  Still prominent in ratings, the Adam Levine/Miley Cyrus reality TV platform has eroded to softer numbers falling B flat at 1.5 in the demos.  This may be demonstrating a change in taste and preference for television viewing.  Just like The Voice has endured this season, American Idol began experiencing the fade in spring 2012.  With the Voice aging, viewers may give a refreshed Idol a chance with appealing hosts and minor revamps to the format.

3. ABC needs help.  Like FOX did for years, it rests in 4th place with the season averages.  Thanks to changes made by Disney to keep sports exclusively on ESPN, ABC no longer has football to bolster Sunday ratings.  CBS, NBC and FOX still enjoy Nielsen boosts from live sports, leaving ABC Sunday ratings frozen in recent years.  And not the kind that ignited an avalanche of Nielsen watershed like Once Upon a Time did in 2014.  Should ABC resurrect Idol on Sundays, it has repaired its most problematic night if successful.  Idol helped FOX push past ABC in 2003-04 for 3rd Place, and enjoyed the same luxury besting NBC from 2004-07.  Even a modest delivery may help ABC return to the serious forefront of the networks.

4. Sundays were a prominent evening for ABC from 2004-13.  The evening was considered weak until crafty and well-scripted Desperate Housewives entered the fray in Fall 2004, becoming the network's number one show and pushing ABC back into 2nd place.  DH's welcome fortunes paved the debut for durable Grey's Anatomy later that season, leading to Grey's rebuilding Thursdays all the way to its current 13th season.  DH faded from glory in 2011, yet lead-in Once Upon a Time reignited the evening during its last season.  That led to the mild success of Revenge, which also faded in prominence in 2014.  Since then, ABC has endured scheduling issues from the 9-11PM timeslots, and this season adds fading OUAT's 8pm timeslot to this misfortune.  Adding Idol is a welcome departure.

5. American Idol enjoyed Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday showings on FOX, which may help viewers familiarize themselves against Nielsen elimination.  However, those evenings are performing modestly to successfully under ABC's current format.  Mondays are solid with fellow reality TV platforms Bachelor(ette) and Dancing With the Stars, and Fridays are doing okay.  Sundays would not only prove beneficial for the network, but also for Idol and reality TV fans.  It will allow ABC to leave its mark on the show, as well as give viewers something new to look forward to on a new evening.

6. It is a perfect fit following Sunday Football and the Winter Olympics.  After viewers tackle NBC, CBS and FOX for sports from September-February, NBC will freeze viewing patterns for the 2018 winter Olympics.  What is left for viewers to enjoy from March through May?  ABC has wisely anchored this opportunity, as spring viewing patterns leave hemorrhages.  Even if Idol locks in a 1.2 rating regularly during that period, it shall improve over paltry ratings which plunged as low as 0.3 this season with Time After Time and American Crime.

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