NEW YORK — Fox is pulling the plug on “American Idol” after 15 seasons. The music reality show that was once the most popular on U.S. television will return in January, but Fox announced on Monday that it will be a farewell season for the series. Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban and Harry Connick, Jr. will return as the judges for the final season as will host Ryan Seacrest.
The announcement comes two days before the 14th season finale of “American Idol.” The final two shows of the season, where the finalists perform and then a winner is announced, have traditionally been its best rated shows of the season for Idol. News of the cancellation could give a final boost to this week’s ratings.
The show was once a ratings juggernaut and huge profit driver for Fox. It averaged more than 20 million viewers every season from 2003, it’s second year on the air, through 2011, according to ratings tracker Nielsen, making it the top rated non-sports program on television through most of that period. It reached a high point with an average of nearly 31 million viewers in 2006. “Idol” was the top rated show on television for eight consecutive seasons.
But its ratings have fallen hard since then, with an average of only 10.3 million viewers last season, and only 9 million viewers so far this year, making it the 20th most-viewed program. It is no longer even Fox’s top rated program, losing that distinction to the new drama Empire.