The slow death of the TV talent show

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This year will see the final series of one of the forerunners of the modern era TV talent shows, as American Idol bows out with it’s 15th series. With declining viewers and declining advertising revenue, not only has the decision been made to end with this final series, but this final series will also be shorter than previous years by 4 weeks.

I remember when TV talent shows were drawing audiences of 15 – 20 million per show. Now it seems like anything between 5 and 7 million is seen as a success. The thing with TV talent shows is that they are all geared around advertising, sponsorship and phone ins. If it wasn’t for these things then the viewing dip wouldn’t be as important, as for some programming 5 – 7 million is a good number. TV talent shows got lots of promotion and the best TV slots because they were cash cows but without the support of the viewers they will soon be cancelled, as the only slots they can exist in is weekend prime time.

Change in consumption

When TV talent shows were at the zenith, smart phones and tablets weren’t in every hand, streaming wasn’t mainstream, youtube wasn’t being used as it is now and Tivo (DVR) wasn’t in nearly every home. TV talent shows rely on us all sitting down to watch the programme live and that isn’t how we consume TV any more.

TV talent shows tried to combat what was happening by focusing the shows more on the soap style storylines rather than the talent in order to get headlines and column inches, which worked in the short time and kept interest up. However the more sensationalist the headlines got, the more the public and the media got jaded by them and the less newsworthy the shows became.

I do have a soft spot for the TV talent show but I must admit to rarely watching them any more. Back in the day I would watch all the British TV talent shows and even the US ones like American Idol. UK TV stations fighting over the rights to American Idol (an import), just showed you how popular the genre was, that in the UK we were lapping up anything we could get.

Saturation

The main reason I don’t watch them anymore is because when the popularity was growing, the number of programmes and length of programmes in a series just seemed to grow and grow. Live shows turned in to 3-hour marathons and then moved from just Saturday night to Saturday and Sunday night, which meant giving up most of the weekend to follow them.

You can’t just blame one thing for the slow death of the TV talent show but I think viewer fatigue and the way we consume media now means that at least for a while I think they have had their day.

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