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As ‘American Idol’ Turns 20, the Oscars Provide a Birthday Gift to ABC’s Most Popular Show

The former Fox singing competition will inherit its biggest audience of the season with Sunday's post-Oscars episode.

Carly Mickeal on ABC's "American Idol"

Carly Mickeal on ABC’s “American Idol”

ABC/Eric McCandless

We all looked pretty good at 20 and “American Idol” is no exception. An ABC singing competition since 2018 (after a lengthy Fox run from 2002-2016, where the series was an absolute sensation in its first few seasons), this version of “Idol” passed “Grey’s Anatomy” to become the Disney-owned broadcast network’s most-watched series this season, averaging 9.1 million viewers across multiple platforms. That distinction includes one week of delayed viewing, which would disproportionately benefit the scripted medical drama over the singing competition.

That helps explain why, this Sunday, “American Idol” will get its first post-Oscars time slot with an hour-long episode that wraps up Season 20’s judge auditions ahead of Hollywood Week. Even with the recent Academy Awards’ ratings struggles — and how late the awards show can run on the east coast — that post-Oscars time slot is highly coveted scheduling sure to reward host Ryan Seacrest and judges Lionel Richie, Katy Perry, and Luke Bryan with a sizable built-in audience.

American Idol” already has momentum heading into Oscars Sunday: On ABC alone (so, no streaming) it ranked number-one among adults 18-49 on the evening of each of its three telecasts thus far this season, according to Nielsen. “Idol” may not be the hit it once was, nor deliver the bankable stars it once made, but the Simon Fuller creation is still a very viable television show.

In terms of non-sports broadcasts, “Idol” and CBS’ popular news program “60 Minutes” are tied atop that particular demo’s ratings across the entire broadcast television season, which started back in mid-September 2021. CBS skews older, and “60 Minutes” is number-one in overall viewers, which includes anyone older than an infant. Its Queen Latifah drama, “The Equalizer,” is tied with “American Idol” for the lead among adults 25-54. (Both of those have a 1.6 rating in that slightly older demo. “60 Minutes” is just behind with a 1.5.)

"American Idol" judges Lionel Richie, Katy Perry, and Luke Bryan.

“American Idol” judges Lionel Richie, Katy Perry, and Luke Bryan.

ABC/Eric McCandless

This past Monday night, “American Idol” went head to head against the debut of NBC’s Eurovision Song Contest adaptation, “American Song Contest,” and dominated. “American Song Contest” from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. premiered to a 0.5 rating in the key adults 18-49 demographic and 2.9 million total viewers. “American Idol” over the same hours earned a 0.7 rating and had 5.3 million total viewers, a 29 percent advantage in ratings and 45 percent better in terms of overall viewers.

“’American Idol’ stands the test of time and continues to deliver chart-topping ratings in its 20th year,” Rob Mills, executive vice president of Walt Disney Television’s unscripted and alternative entertainment, told IndieWire. “Sunday night on ABC is going to be the biggest night in Hollywood with ‘The 94th Oscars,’ and what better way to celebrate than to follow it up with a night of ‘Idol’ hopefuls in their element.”

“Idol” also ranks as the most social broadcast series of 2022, and the most social reality series across all of television (including cable). The Season 20 premiere was the most social episode of any broadcast series so far this year, generating 1.6 million social interactions. Video consumption of “American Idol” across social media platforms has been even bigger, generating 5.1 million social video views per episode.

Those stats are something for every TV show to idolize – especially those lucky enough to make it 20 seasons.

“American Idol’s” Hollywood Week starts Monday night at 8/7c on ABC. Good luck to NBC and “American Song Contest” in the what at first blush appears to be a lopsided weekly American eyeballs contest.

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