Ray Richmond is contributing to Deadline’s TV coverage.
With American Idol’s ratings down well into double-digits year-to-year this season, executive producer Nigel Lythgoe claimed not to be surprised by the drop and even grew somewhat defensive with journalists during a conference call this morning. “You’re asking me how I feel about the 11th season ratings when I originally thought we’d be going off the air after three weeks (of season 1)?” he said. “Let’s be honest about this: We’re constantly compared against ourselves and our own ratings. Of course you’re going to see some sort of deterioration in the numbers.” Lythgoe sees the reason for the slippage as stemming from a combination of factors, chiefly the increased competition and resultant music reality series fatigue. “We’ve got The Voice and X Factor going now, and we’re all feeding from the same talent pool and of course the same ratings pool. …We’d always said we would never two Idols in a single year, and this is why. Now we have X Factor sitting there, and it feels just like Fox is doing two Idols a season. Add to that The Voice and of course there’s going to be viewer fatigue, as much you see when you have too many science fiction dramas or too many hospital dramas on television.” Lythgoe was quick to note that “we’ve still got the No. 1 show on TV in our 11th year. That’s pretty incredible. And after 11 years, I don’t think we should have to be defending ourselves. … Whatever bad press we’re getting about the ratings, I mean, my God the rest of the world would kill for these kinds of ratings.”
Supporting Lythgoe’s claim that slipping ratings are not sounding the alarm, there are no changes planned in the short term save for a new Las Vegas location, he said. “Otherwise I don’t see any need for changes at this time.”
Lythgoe also took the opportunity to take a few swipes at The Voice and X Factor, finding that The Voice “is fed by talent that hasn’t quite made it or is trying to come back. X Factor didn’t really know what it wanted to do I think.” As for Idol, Lythgoe defiantly maintained that his show remains the gold standard. “If what you want is bloody good talent on that stage without gimmicks, then you watch American Idol, because that’s what you’re going to get.” Lythgoe acknowledged that judges Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler are sometimes caught struggling to be honest while at the same time satisfying their fans and supporting the artist — and inadvertently took a shot at former Idol judge Simon Cowell in the process. “It’s easier for someone like Simon Cowell,” he said “because all the time he’s just thinking, ‘Can you make me money?’ ”
As for host Ryan Seacrest’s unresolved status with Idol beyond this season, Lythgoe called him “probably the best host in the business” and “the glue that holds (the show) together and moves it along.” He admitted he’d hate to see Seacrest go. “I don’t have anything bad to say against Ryan other than that he’s too good-looking and has too much money. … I just hope he doesn’t leave to be frank. They should try to sort out a deal.”