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'Idol' worship leaves mark on television

The music-TV story of the year can be summed up in two words: “American Idol.”The Fox show’s second season, which began in January, had even higher ratings than the previous season. The second round of “American Idol” averaged 22 million viewers per episode, compared with the first season’s 11 million viewers per episode, according to Nielsen Media Research.By the time the second-seaso
/ Source: Billboard

The music-TV story of the year can be summed up in two words: “American Idol.”

The Fox show’s second season, which began in January, had even higher ratings than the previous season. The second round of “American Idol” averaged 22 million viewers per episode, compared with the first season’s 11 million viewers per episode, according to Nielsen Media Research.

By the time the second-season finale of “American Idol” aired in May, winner Ruben Studdard and second-place finisher Clay Aiken had become stars. After losing to Studdard by less than 1% of the vote, Aiken went on to have a No. 1 album on the Billboard 200 (his debut, “Measure of a Man,” on RCA Records) and the biggest-selling single of the year on the Billboard Hot 100 (“This Is the Night,” also on RCA). He also achieved larger record sales than Studdard.

No other TV series this year affected the U.S. record business the way “American Idol” did, and the RCA Music Group (which released “American Idol” records and hit music from Aiken, Studdard and first-season winner Kelly Clarkson) reaped the sales benefits. The first albums from Clarkson (“Thankful” on RCA) and Studdard (“Soulful” on J Records) debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200.

Gone and all but forgotten

Not all “American Idol” alumni were successful on the charts this year. Two finalists from the show’s first season --Justin Guarini and Tamyra Gray -- reportedly lost their record deals.

RCA Records released Guarini’s self-titled album in June, but the album sold less than 140,000 units in the U.S., according to Nielsen SoundScan. This year, Gray’s debut album was supposed to be released by J Records (part of the RCA Music Group) but never made it to the street, and now it is unclear whether the album will be issued.

Both record labels and 19 Entertainment (the management company that represents Guarini and Gray) had no comment.

The past year also marked the premiere of other TV talent contests, including USA Networks’ “Nashville Star,” CBS’ revival of “Star Search,” NBC’s “Fame,” VH1’s “Born to Diva” and Showtime’s “Interscope Presents the Next Episode.”

None came close to the popularity of “American Idol,” although “Nashville Star” did have a breakout success story with first-season winner Buddy Jewell. He won a record deal with Columbia Nashville and had a No. 1 self-titled debut on Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart.

The second season of “Making the Band II” starred Sean “P. Diddy” Combs and Bad Boy’s Da Band, the group Combs assembled after the first season’s talent contest. The group’s debut album, “Too Hot for TV,” on Bad Boy Entertainment, debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 in October and has sold 469,000 copies to date in the U.S.

Ratings hits and misses

Hip-hop and pop stars doing sitcoms and comedy series was another big trend in the ongoing crossover between the music business and TV.

Eve (UPN’s “Eve”), Lil’ Romeo and Master P (Nickelodeon’s “Romeo!”) and Snoop Dogg (MTV’s “Doggy Fizzle Televizzle”) starred in their own comedy series in 2003. Stars who inked sitcom development deals in 2003 included Bow Wow and MC Hammer (with the WB), Hilary Duff (with CBS) and Jessica Simpson (with ABC); all the shows are expected to debut in 2004.



Cher’s Emmy Award-winning NBC special “Cher: The Farewell Tour” was the highest-rated network-TV concert special of 2003. According to Nielsen Media Research, the show’s April 8 premiere drew 16.6 million U.S. viewers.

The WB weekly live music series “Pepsi Smash” bombed. With a season average of only 1.7 million viewers per episode, “Pepsi Smash” was among the network’s lowest-rated shows of the year.

“Newlyweds,” the reality series starring pop star Simpson and husband Nick Lachey, was a hit for MTV and has been renewed for a second season. The couple had a ubiquitous media presence as a result of the show, but all the publicity apparently could not provide much of a boost for Simpson’s and Lachey’s latest albums, which languished on the charts.

Ratings for the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards declined 10% in total viewers from the previous year. The show likely will be best remembered for the kisses exchanged by Madonna, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera -- a publicity stunt that was covered in the media for weeks afterward.



PBS revived live-music series “SoundStage” ... MuchMusic USA reinvented itself as Fuse ... Disney Channel had hit TV soundtracks for its shows “Kim Possible” and “The Cheetah Girls” ... Showtime re-entered the business of live concert specials by airing a show by Jay-Z.