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Fox believes ratings for ‘Idol’ may go down

Gail Berman, head of Fox’s entertainment division, told a meeting of television critics she expected ratings for the show to decline as a natural consequence of its age, even though its audience grew last year and 29 million people watched its finale.
/ Source: Reuters

Ratings for Fox’s top-ranked “American Idol” will probably decline as the television talent search show enters its fourth season this week, a network official said Monday.

Gail Berman, head of Fox’s entertainment division, told a meeting of television critics she expected ratings for the show to decline as a natural consequence of its age, even though its audience grew last year and 29 million people watched its finale.

“I certainly think that in the fourth iteration of a show, we can expect to see audience dispersion and some declines. I think that is only natural,” she said.

Berman added: “What surprised me last year, its third year, was that its audience grew. We certainly don’t expect to see that this year. But this show is a very important part of our schedule.” She did not say how much she expected ratings to decline.

“Idol” is a major money-maker for the fourth-ranked network, a unit of News Corp. It returns in a slightly revised format Tuesday night with a two-hour program, followed by a one-hour episode Wednesday.

The show was dominated last year by female vocalists and the aim this year is to have equal male-female representation in the finals, program officials said.

Berman said Fox would continue its experiment with year-round programming, although it would fine-tune how it was done and promoted.

She also expressed disappointment at the failure of several reality-based shows the network introduced in November but said one would not be able to say the demand for reality shows had crested until the same thing happened at other networks.

“Some of (our reality) shows did not work and you take your lumps. I do think over-saturation in the marketplace ... is going to have an effect on production. The best generally survive and others get swept away.”

Among Fox’s biggest failures was a critically trashed program called “Who’s Your Daddy,” in which, for a $100,000 prize, a young woman in an evening dress tried to guess who among eight nattily dressed men was her biological father.

Adoption groups slammed the program as irresponsible and Berman said the other five episodes would not be shown.