Why Fox is canceling 'American Idol' after 15 years

After 15 years, the venerable American reality singing competition will leave the air in 2016.

Dan Steinberg/AP/File
Singer Keith Urban, singer and actress Jennifer Lopez, and singer Harry Connick, Jr. arrive on set of "American Idol" in Los Angeles. Fox announced announced Monday, May 11, 2015 that "American Idol" will go off the air after its 15th and final season next spring.

After 14 years, what was once the most watched show on television, is going off the air. Fox has announced that “American Idol” will be canceled following the upcoming 15th season.

“American Idol’s” farewell season will feature veteran host Ryan Seacrest and judges Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban, and Harry Connick, Jr. Fox announced the cancelation on Monday prior to the network’s annual pitch to advertisers previewing its fall lineup.

“American Idol” was created by Simon Fuller in 2002 and is based on his British hit series “Pop Idol.” With original judges Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson, the show has featured a number of notable names on the panel, including Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj, Steven Tyler, Kara DioGuardi and Ellen DeGeneres. The one element that has remained constant throughout the show's history is Seacrest, a former radio personality who has emceed since Season 1.

At the height of its popularity in 2006, the season finale of “American Idol” drew 36 million viewers, and an average of 30 million throughout the season. These numbers are particularly impressive given that the show typically had over 40 episodes per season, many of which were two hours long.

The success of the show launched a whole genre of American reality TV shows, including “The Voice,” “The Sing Off,” “The X Factor,” and “America’s Got Talent,” as well as the careers of several successful singers such as Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Clay Aiken, and Jordin Sparks.

However, ratings have dropped in the last few years, despite judging and casting changes meant to bump up viewership. Since “American Idol” reached its peak ratings in 2006, the show has gradually lost the 18-49 age group that drives advertising revenue. While the past season has seen a boost in ratings because it airs on the same night as the network’s new hit “Empire,” “American Idol” has failed to recapture the riveted audience it once held.

As “American Idol” leaves the network, several other shows will be making their debut, including a "Heroes" reboot titled “Heroes Reborn;” a Neil Patrick Harris variety show; “Scream Queens” from “Glee” creator Ryan Murphy; “Lucifer,” which is based on a DC Comics story; and a limited return of “The X-Files,” which has been off the air since 2002.

Season 15 of “American Idol,” which will begin in January 2016,  is slated to be a “season-long celebratory event” that will pay tribute to those who made the show a success over the years, including notable contestants and fans who helped determine the winners each season.

 [Editor's noteThe original story incorrectly stated Neil Patrick Harris as the star of the show "Heroes Reborn," on NBC. Mr. Harris is starring in a variety show, also on NBC.]

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