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What a season it’s been for American Idol so far this year!

How so? Well aside from a scene featuring a contestant falling off the stage, Season 11 of the long running music competition show has been notable for one key factor – it’s almost total lack of buzz!

So far this season there hasn’t been a single contestant who’s made headlines in the way that the likes of Pia and Casey did last year, or even a terrible contestant like William Hung did several seasons ago.

The fact is NO ONE is talking about Idol this year, and this total lack of buzz is reflected in the show’s ratings. Put simply, Idol is in freefall.

I’ve already commented on Idol’s 2012 slippage in an earlier post back in January, but since then Idol has only fallen further. On Thursday night last week, Idol pulled in ‘just’ 15.64 million viewers and a 4.5 18-49 share. Wow!

Now 15 million viewers in 2012 is nothing to sniff at, especially for a show in its 11th season. But the fact is that figure represents a 39% drop year on year. That’s a huge fall for any show. In general series only slip 10-15% season to season.

Last week Idol was beaten by The Big Bang Theory (16.20 million) and NCIS (19.29 million) and both The Voice (16.04 million) and NCIS: LA (15.47 million) came close. Plus in the key 18-49 demo The Voice came out well ahead of Idol – pulling in a 6.0 rating.

At the end of the day an 18-49 rating is what networks really care about (as CBS knows only too well), so total viewers are of limited usage. A 4.5 is still very good – it’s about what Modern Family scores on a down week – but for a show that used to hit the 7’s, 8’s and 9’s on a regular basis this is troubling news. It means that younger viewers i.e. anyone under 50, are departing American Idol in droves. Especially bad news for a show that looks to crown a winner each season who will compete in the modern day music charts…

Personally I don’t think Idol will fall too much further but I could certainly see it hitting 14 – or even 13 – million viewers at some point this season. If and when it does expect plenty of ‘Idol Is Dead’ headlines. Those numbers would pretty much be on a par with last Fall’s X Factor.

Speaking of which, the new Simon Cowell talent show is probably partially responsible for Idol’s falling figures – after all Idol no longer has the playing field entirely to itself. But I also think the veteran music show’s rigid format and dull judges played a large part in the drops too. Plus I think Fox may have made a smart decision in launching The X Factor last year. While its ratings may not have been what the network were hoping for the show does have the potential to grow as new, more A-list judges are added. Besides Idol was never going to be around forever – Fox did the right thing by developing a younger, fresher replacement.

But what do you think? How low do you think Idol will go this season? And how much longer do you think the aging talent show will still be around (I would predict two more seasons guaranteed, but then who knows?) Comment away…