Why Are Reality TV Competition Ratings Falling So Hard?

A new report in USA Today shines a spotlight on a disturbing trend for reality television lovers. American Idol ratings aren’t the only ones falling at a rapid rate. Even The Voice, which has now conquered American Idol as the number one singing reality TV competition, is having trouble keeping it’s ratings up.

American Idol 2014 judges

As USA Today notes, American Idol ratings this year are down about 19 percent overall and nearly 30 percent in the advertiser-coveted young adult audience. American Idol has been in a slow decline for years, but the past three seasons have experience severe drops in both overall viewership and young adult viewers.

This isn’t just a problem with American Idol, however. Many other reality TV competition shows are also suffering a strong fall in ratings. ABC’s Dancing With the Stars was cut down to just one combined night of dancing and results due to a decline in viewership. The premiere this season was down 1.6 million viewers.

Other shows like The Amazing Race are also losing their audience, especially younger watchers that propel advertisers to spend money on the programs. The Amazing Race All Stars premiered this year down 14 percent in ratings. The X Factor ended up being cancelled entirely after the ratings for the show’s third season in the U.S. tanked.¬†Even The Voice has lost 15 percent of its young adult audience, although it is still doing reasonably well overall compared to last season’s ratings.

So why are many reality TV competition ratings crashing? Well, many of these shows have been around for a long time now. No matter what kind of show it is, most television programs eventually lose their audience as they move on to new and fresher shows. Well, unless you are a Dr. Who fan, they just can’t seem to get enough.

Plus, the ‘shine’ of reality TV competitions has pretty much rubbed off at this point. Take American Idol for instance. It may have been an amazing new thing when it first premiered, and the first winner went on to become a huge star. People became instant and lifetime fans of the show (like us!) and still watch it to this day. But while many of the old fans still linger, they keep getting older, and the younger viewers just aren’t as interested in a show their moms and dads grew up watching.

Atlanta audition contestants

Since American Idol premiered, there have also been countless hordes of other reality TV singing competitions launched. Viewers just become kind of jaded at watching all these shows. Especially when only a small handful of the contestants ever actually go on to find fame and fortune after the competitions are over. The market audience has been diluted over the years and the ratings are bound to suffer, especially when some of the shows end up going head to head on the same nights.

We still love American Idol as the show that launched Kelly Clarkson, Fantasia Barrino, Carrie Underwood, Adam Lambert, Jennifer Hudson, Phillip Phillips, and many other talented artists. Even with the show’s falling ratings, American Idol continues to be a top 10 network series, according to USA Today, right along with The Voice. So we hope it will still be here for many more years to come.

After all, if Survivor can make it for nearly 30 seasons, why can’t we have an American Idol 2020?





  1. Like anything else, people tire of things. Not to mention the fact that so much has come out about the manipulation, judicious editing and scripting of reality shows that the public feels cheated. May as well watch real actors.

  2. American Idol is playing to much to teeny boppers! All that standing around near the stage and makeup people dabbing their faces before they perform is kind of sickening. Older people watch this show also. I’ve watched it since it started and have always liked it, up until this year.I like all the judges, so it’s not them. Get all those kids away from the stage and you might get your ratings back!

  3. AI has not been the same since Simon left. Don’t get me wrong I enjoy with Stephen Taylor was on, but Simon and his remarks made the show. I have been a fan of the show since season 1 and this year is awful. The talent is just okay, no one really stands out to be the next superstar.

  4. They should have done a lot better with the judges however the singers are very ordinary. I do not care if any of hem get through. Even last year Candace, Angie and a number of the other female singers left this years group for dead. However last year they planned on having a female winner. It was very planned and i think most people could see that. This year they are not up to standard they do not have star quality,

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