"The X Factor" didn't do "American Idol"-like numbers this fall -- but it gave Fox some high notes for the season.
Fox gained mightily this fall -- growing some 14% in its live-plus-seven-day rating. "X-Factor" filled a big gap for Fox and, coupled with surprising "New Girl," the network did well. Give major kudos to Fox, which has topped the charts as the number one network among the key 18-49 viewers for many seasons.
Now, Fox is about to take its usual next step: the return of "American Idol" for another season, its 11th.
Going into fall, Fox did its best to position "X-Factor" as the next big thing -- virtually telling consumers that the new singing contest show would be similar to "American Idol." In marketing materials, former "Idol" judge Simon Cowell was heavily touted -- with his image and, of cours, his typical entertaining and caustic remarks.
So now the shoe could be on the other foot: what effect will "X-Factor" have on "American Idol"?
Critics have predicted the demise of "American Idol" for years. But it has been able to endure -- through changing judges and formats, and by adding a key Thursday night airing.
"American Idol" remains TV's top rated series. Last season, it averaged an 8.8 rating among 18-49 viewers for its Wednesday performance show and a 7.7 ratings for its Thursday results show. By comparison "X-Factor" through December 11 has a 3.9 rating for its Tuesday performance show and a 3.7 for its Wednesday result show. Not exactly "Idol"-like, but a strong primetime show in its own right.
Odds are "American Idol" should not be worried about much -- other than whatever normal viewer erosion many expect from a show over a decade old.
In some ways, the changes "Idol" made a year ago -- adding Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler -- should help viewers in identifying significant differences between it and “X-Factor.” "Idol" is a much gentler competition show that doesn't have a mentoring component. "X-Factor" has Cowell's brusque persona attached as well as the mentoring segments.
If anything, the bigger worry for "American Idol" might be a more heavily marketed NBC show, "The Voice", which last year averaged a powerful 5.4 rating with 18-49 viewers. That show will again run in the spring, the same time frame as "Idol" -- but not completely head-to-head on the same nights. Even when the two shows competed against each other last year, "Idol" won handily.
With this in mind, a bigger question is what, if any, new "Idol" brand messaging Fox will release. Whatever it is, considering all that has been thrown at it, one should Idol-ize "Idol."