American Idol
American Idol logo
Format Interactive reality game show
Created by Simon Fuller
Directed by John Pritchett (live shows)
Bruce Gowers (live shows, 2002-2008)
Nigel Lythgoe (audition shows, 2002-2008)
Ken Warwick, Gregg Gelfland (audition shows)
Presented by Ryan Seacrest (2002 - present)
Brian Dunkleman (2002)
Judges Simon Cowell (2002 - present)
Paula Abdul (2002 - present)
Randy Jackson (2002 - present)
Kara DioGuardi (2009 - present)
Country of origin United States
No. of seasons 8
No. of episodes 284 (List of episodes)
Kensie Kimball (2002-2008)
Bryce Foley
Cecile Frot-Coutaz
Location(s) Initial auditions: Various
Hollywood auditions: Kodak Theater Hollywood
Semi-finals and finals: CBS Television City
Finale: Nokia Theatre
Running time Varies
FremantleMedia North America
19 Television
Distributor FremantleMedia Enterprises
Original channel FOX
Picture format 480i (NTSC),
720p (HDTV) (since 2006)
Original run June 11, 2002 – Present
External links
Official website
IMDb profile summary

American Idol (American Idol: The Search for a Superstar in season 1) is an American reality TV show airing on Fox. It debuted on June 11, 2002, and has since become one of the most popular shows on American television. Part of the Idol franchise, it is a spinoff from the reality program Pop Idol, which was created by British entertainment executive Simon Fuller and first aired in 2001 in the United Kingdom.

The program seeks to discover the best singer in the country through a series of nationwide auditions. The American public decides the outcomes of the later stages through phone voting. The judges give critiques of the contestants' performances: record producer and music manager Randy Jackson; pop singer and choreographer Paula Abdul; music executive and music manager Simon Cowell; and singer/songwriter and record producer Kara DioGuardi. The format originally featured three judges, with Kara DioGuardi added in season 8.

The show is hosted by television personality Ryan Seacrest. Comedian Brian Dunkleman co-hosted with Seacrest during the first season. The American Idol band is led by Rickey Minor.

The show usually airs on Tuesday and Wednesday nights in the United States and Canada, Wednesday and Thursday nights in Australia, and Thursday and Friday nights in the United Kingdom.

Initial auditions

Before contestants get the chance to see the show's judges, they go through two rigorous sets of cuts: the first consists of a brief audition in front of one or two of the show's producers with three other contestants. Contestants are then either sent through to the next round of producers or are asked to leave. Only about 100–200 contestants in each city make it past this round, which is a staggering statistic considering that tens of thousands of people show up to audition in each city.


Singers are not permitted to have any current record deals or talent management agreements (though they may have had one at some point in the past). They must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents eligible to work full-time and, for the first three seasons, had to be 16 to 24 years of age on October 19 of the year of audition. Since the fourth season, the upper age limit was raised to 28 with an earlier cutoff date, August 4, to attract more mature and diverse contestants.

Others who are ineligible to compete include those who have made it into the top 40 contestants in past seasons (or the top 50 of season 7), and people employed by affiliates of Fox, FremantleMedia or 19 Entertainment (including sponsors, subsidiaries and parent companies). Even if a person is eligible, he or she may not have a chance to audition or be seen because the show can see only a limited number of people in each city.

Auditioning contestants must bring with them to the audition a valid proof of age and work eligibility, such as a birth certificate and driver's license, a passport, or a green card, and those under the age of 18 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. All auditioning contestants are required to print out a copy of the release form (available on the show's web site) to fill out and turn in at the audition in order to grant permission to be seen and heard by the producers' cameras. Contestants who are found to have given false information are disqualified. After auditioning - regardless of the outcome (even if eliminated on the very first cut) - contestants are under contract with the show until three months after the final episode.[1]

In an interview with Anderson Cooper on the CBS TV current affairs show 60 Minutes on March 17, 2007 (repeated in extended format on CNN's AC 360 program on March 27, 2007), judge Simon Cowell openly declared that the underlying primary purpose of the Idol franchise (including American Idol) was for 19 Entertainment (the parent corporation that produces the Idol TV shows) to discover new singing talent that can be signed to recording agreements that the corporation maintains with a major record company (Sony/BMG), and benefit from the record sales of contestants and winners who are exposed to the worldwide marketplace through the TV shows. Cowell indicated that revenue from recordings by performers associated with the Idol franchise has already exceeded US $100 million. 19 Entertainment also retains exclusive right of refusal for management and merchandising of any contestant. Exercising management rights is at the sole discretion of 19 Entertainment; in the alternative the contestant performer is free to pursue his or her own career.


Once in Hollywood, the contestants perform on different days, with eliminations by the judges on each day. The first day typically has each hopeful sing a song that they had selected from a list. In the next round, the contestants split themselves into small groups and perform a song together. In the final round, the contestants perform a song of their choice a cappella.

Starting in the 2008 season, the structure of the Hollywood round was revamped. There were no longer musical group rounds (the group round was reintroduced in the 2009 season); rather, the contestants would sing on the first day and if the judges felt the performance was adequate, the contestant moved onto the final Hollywood round. If the performance was not up to par, the contestant would have one more chance to impress the judges before the final round. For the first time, contestants were allowed to perform with a musical instrument if they so desired.


In the first three seasons, the semifinalists were randomly split into different groups. Each contestant would then sing in their respective group's night and the top two or three, depending on season, who received the most votes from America in each group would advance to the finals. In season one, there were three separate groups and the top three contestants from each group made it to the finals. In seasons two and three, there were four groups of eight and the top two contestants would move onto the finals.

The first three seasons each featured a Wildcard show in that contestants who failed to make it to the finals would be allowed to perform once more for a chance at a spot. In season one, only one Wildcard contestant would be chosen by the judges. However, in seasons two and three, each judge would champion one contestant and the public would advance the fourth Wildcard contestant into the finals. In the second season, a few hopefuls who had failed to make the semifinals were selected by the judges to compete in the Wildcard round. In the third season, the judges eliminated four contestants from the Wildcard round before they had the opportunity to sing.

From season four to seven, the semifinals were cut down to twenty-four contestants who were divided by gender in order to ensure an equal division in the top twelve. The men and women would sing on sequential nights and the bottom two would be eliminated from each group on the results show until the top twelve finalists were left.

In season eight, the semifinals will go back to the basic form of the first three seasons. There will be thirty-six semifinalists who are then divided into three semifinal groups. The three finalists with the highest number of America's votes, one male, one female and the next top vote getter, will advance to the finals. The Wildcard round will also return with the judges choosing three previously eliminated contestants to advance to the finals.


In the finals, which last eleven weeks, each finalist out of all of the contestants performed a song live in prime time from a weekly theme (two songs in later rounds) at CBS Television City in Los Angeles in front of a live studio audience. Themes have included Motown, disco, big band music, and Billboard #1 hits. Some themes are based on music recorded by a particular artist, and the finalists have a chance to work with that artist in preparing their performances. Artists around whom themes have been based include The Beatles, Billy Joel, Neil Sedaka, Mariah Carey, The Bee Gees, Barry Manilow, Rod Stewart, Gloria Estefan, Elton John, Stevie Wonder, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Neil Diamond, Queen, Bon Jovi, Dolly Parton, and Elvis Presley. Once in the top four and five, the contestants sing two songs each; once in the top three and finale, the contestants sing three songs each.

Following each performance episode, a results show airs that reveals the breakdown of the voting public's decision. The most popular contestants are not typically revealed (although they have been in very rare cases), but the bottom three least popular contestants are typically called to the center of the stage. From the bottom three, the bottom two are revealed, until finally the contestant who received the lowest amount of votes is eliminated from the competition. A montage of the contestant's experience is played and they give their final performance.

In the finale, one remaining contestant is declared the winner. Until the 2008 season, the stage was moved to the Kodak Theatre for the finale showdown, where the two remaining contestants perform for an audience of at least 3,400. In 2008, the venue was changed to the Nokia Theatre, which holds an audience of over 7,000. The winner is announced at the following results show. The winner receives a one million (US) dollar record deal with a major label, and is managed by American Idol-related 19 Management. In some cases, other finalists have also been signed by the show's management company (who has first option to sign contestants) and received record deals with its major label partner.

Season synopses

Season 1 (2002)
Kelly Clarkson Winner
Justin Guarini September 4
Nikki McKibbin August 28
Tamyra Gray August 21
R. J. Helton August 14
Christina Christian August 7
Ryan Starr July 31
A.J. Gil July 24
Jim Verraros July 17
EJay Day
Season 2 (2003)
Ruben Studdard Winner
Clay Aiken May 21
Kimberley Locke May 14
Josh Gracin May 7
Trenyce April 30
Carmen Rasmusen April 23
Kimberly Caldwell April 16
Rickey Smith April 9
Corey Clark Disqualified
April 2
Julia DeMato March 26
Charles Grigsby March 19
Vanessa Olivarez March 12
Season 3 (2004)
Fantasia Barrino Winner
Diana DeGarmo May 26
Jasmine Trias May 19
LaToya London May 12
George Huff May 5
John Stevens April 28
Jennifer Hudson April 21
Jon Peter Lewis April 15
Camile Velasco April 7
Amy Adams March 31
Matthew Rogers March 24
Leah LaBelle March 17
Season 4 (2005)
Carrie Underwood Winner
Bo Bice May 25
Vonzell Solomon May 18
Anthony Fedorov May 11
Scott Savol May 4
Constantine Maroulis April 27
Anwar Robinson April 20
Nadia Turner April 13
Nikko Smith April 6
Jessica Sierra March 30
Mikalah Gordon March 24
Lindsey Cardinale March 16
Season 5 (2006)
Taylor Hicks Winner
Katharine McPhee May 24
Elliott Yamin May 17
Chris Daughtry May 10
Paris Bennett May 3
Kellie Pickler April 26
Ace Young April 19
Bucky Covington April 12
Mandisa April 5
Lisa Tucker March 29
Kevin Covais March 22
Melissa McGhee March 15
Season 6 (2007)
Jordin Sparks Winner
Blake Lewis May 23
Melinda Doolittle May 16
LaKisha Jones May 9
Chris Richardson May 2
Phil Stacey
Sanjaya Malakar April 18
Haley Scarnato April 11
Gina Glocksen April 4
Chris Sligh March 28
Stephanie Edwards March 21
Brandon Rogers March 14
Season 7 (2008)
David Cook Winner
David Archuleta May 21
Syesha Mercado May 14
Jason Castro May 7
Brooke White April 30
Carly Smithson April 23
Kristy Lee Cook April 16
Michael Johns April 10
Ramiele Malubay April 2
Chikezie March 26
Amanda Overmyer March 19
David Hernandez March 12

Season 1

Main article: American Idol (season 1)

The first season of American Idol debuted without hype as a summer replacement show in June 2002 on the Fox Broadcasting Company. Fox, along with other networks, initially rejected the show. However, Rupert Murdoch, head of Fox's parent company, was persuaded to buy the show by his daughter Elisabeth who was a fan of the British version.[2] The show's co-hosts were Ryan Seacrest and Brian Dunkleman. Through word of mouth generated by the appeal of its contestants and the presence of acid-tongued British judge Simon Cowell, the show grew into a phenomenon. An estimated fifty million people watched the Season 1 finale in September 2002. Following such a success, the second season was moved to air the upcoming January. The number of episodes increased, as did the show's budget and the charge for commercial spots.

Winner Kelly Clarkson signed with RCA Records, the label in partnership with American Idol's 19 Management. Immediately post-finale, Clarkson released two singles, most notably the coronation song "A Moment Like This" which debuted at number 52, but marked the biggest jump in Billboard Hot 100 history when it shot to number one, breaking a record set by The Beatles. As part of the promotion planned for the show's first winner, the song had been pre-recorded ready to air on radio stations the day after the finale. (As such, a version of the song was also recorded by runner up Justin Guarini which remains unreleased.) Appearances on numerous entertainment/news shows followed, as did videos for the singles that began airing on MTV's TRL. Clarkson has subsequently had three successful albums: Thankful, Breakaway, and My December. She has several hit singles mostly from her more successful second album Breakaway. While her first album failed to sell outside of North America, her second was a global success and garnered two Grammy Awards in 2006 with 12 million albums sold worldwide. Her third album, My December as of December 4, 2008 has sold 778,800 domestically, and approximately over 2 million copies worldwide, and was certified Platinum in Canada and the United States. Her fourth album All I Ever Wanted will be released on March 10, 2009.

The show inspired a 2003 musical film, From Justin to Kelly, featuring Kelly Clarkson and runner-up Justin Guarini. The musical love story, produced by American Idol's Simon Fuller, was filmed in Miami, Florida over a period of six weeks shortly after the season ended. Released several months later in June 2003, the film failed to make back its budget [3] during its short run in theatres and is often ranked among the worst movies ever made. A DVD with additional footage was released and the movie airs periodically in the U.S. and other countries.

Besides Clarkson and Guarini, also signed were Nikki McKibbin (3rd), Tamyra Gray (4th), R. J. Helton (5th), and Christina Christian (6th). It is the only year the runner-up did not release a single following the show's finale.

Runner-up Justin Guarini also signed with RCA Records. Contract restrictions required him to reject outside offers received and delay solo projects following the season finale, eventually debuting an album in 2003 after the conclusion of Season 2. RCA dropped him shortly after its debut. Guarini went on to form his own entertainment company, and independently produced a jazz album in 2005, with an album of soul/funk/jazz currently in production. He has also composed/performed music for various projects by other artists, continues to act in independent movies/short films/television, and is a host/commentator for the TV Guide Network. Nikki McKibbin signed with RCA, but quit because she refused to record a country album. She has since made appearances on various Reality TV shows and is working on her debut album. Tamyra Gray was signed to RCA, but was dropped before releasing an album. She then signed with Idol creator Simon Fuller's new label 19 Entertainment. Gray's self-written debut album was released in 2004. In 2005, she was also dropped by that label. She had a supporting role in the 2005 movie The Gospel, and limited guest runs in Broadway's "Bombay Dreams" and "Rent". R. J. Helton released a Christian album, but sales were lackluster. Ryan Starr had trouble getting out of her contract with RCA Records but managed to independently release a single, My Religion, which sold 360,000 downloads via iTunes. Her debut album was expected in 2007, but has yet to be released. Jim Verraros, who came out of the closet after being voted off American Idol, starred in an indie film and released a dance-pop album, charting a dance hit on Billboard. Christina Christian, EJay Day (tenth), and AJ Gil (eighth) have had little success after the show.

Starting September 30, 2006, the first season of American Idol was repackaged as "American Idol Rewind" and syndicated direct to stations in the US.

Date Bottom Three
July 17 EJay Day Jim Verraros Nikki McKibbin
July 24 A.J. Gil Ryan Starr Christina Christian
July 31 Ryan Starr (2) Justin Guarini Nikki McKibbin (2)
August 7 Christina Christian (2) R. J. Helton Nikki McKibbin (3)
Bottom Two
August 14 R. J. Helton (2) Nikki McKibbin (4)
August 21 Tamyra Gray Nikki McKibbin (5)
Final Three
August 28 Nikki McKibbin (6)
September 4 Justin Guarini (2) Kelly Clarkson

Season 2

Main article: American Idol (season 2)

In Season 2, Seacrest surfaced as the lone host. Dunkleman reportedly hated working on the show and the studio was dissatisfied with his performance. Kristin Holt was originally announced to be added to the show as a co-host to Ryan Seacrest,[4] but upon airing, she was introduced as a special correspondent with all of the takes with her acting as a host cut out of the first few shows. This time, Ruben Studdard emerged as the winner with Clay Aiken as runner-up. Out of 24 million votes recorded, Studdard finished 130,000 votes ahead of Aiken. There was discussion in the communication industry about the phone system being overloaded, and that more than 150 million votes were dropped, making the voting suspect.[5] Since then, the voting methods have been modified to avoid this problem.

In an interview prior to the fifth season, a statement by executive producer Nigel Lythgoe suggested that Aiken had led the fan voting from the wild card week onward until the finale.[6] Clay Aiken became the first American Idol non-winning contestant to have a U.S. Hot 100 number-one with "This Is the Night", written by British songwriter Chris Braide with Gary Burr and Aldo Nova. Studdard and Aiken both released albums in the fall/winter of 2003, 2004 and 2006. Third place finalist Kimberley Locke's debut album, One Love was released in 2004. Her second album, Based on a True Story, was released in May 2007.

Fourth-place finisher and former Marine Josh Gracin became a country artist. His first album spawned three charted singles, including the number-one U.S. country song, "Nothing to Lose". He is signed with Lyric Street Records.

Sixth-place finisher Carmen Rasmusen signed with independent country record label Lofton Creek Records, and released her debut album and a single in 2007.

After a strong showing during the early stages of auditions, contestant Frenchie Davis was disqualified from the competition when topless photos of her surfaced on the internet. Shortly afterwards she landed a role in the Broadway musical Rent, and continues to work on Broadway.

During the course of the contest, Studdard became known for wearing 205 Flava jerseys representing his area code. Shortly after the end of the contest, Studdard sued 205 Flava, Inc. for $2 million for using his image for promotional purposes. Flava responded by alleging that Studdard had accepted over $10,000 in return for wearing 205 shirts, and produced eight cashed checks to validate their claim. The allegations, if true, indicate a clear violation of the American Idol rules.[7] The lawsuit was settled out of court.[8]

Rumor mills concerning Season Two contestants buzzed again when, in 2006, contestant Corey Clark (who producers kicked off the show because of him not disclosing a police record) alleged that he and judge Paula Abdul had an affair while he was on the show and that this contributed to his removal. Clark also alleged that Abdul gave him preferential treatment on the show because of their alleged romance. A subsequent investigation by an independent counsel hired by Fox "could not corroborate the evidence or allegations provided by Mr. Clark or any witnesses".[9]

American Idol Rewind started re-airing this season in the fall of 2007.

Date Bottom Three
March 11 Vanessa Olivarez Julia DeMato Kimberley Locke
March 18 Charles Grigsby Corey Clark Julia DeMato (2)
March 25 Julia DeMato (3) Kimberly Caldwell Rickey Smith
Corey Clark (disqualified)
April 1 Carmen Rasmusen Trenyce Kimberley Locke (2)
April 8 Rickey Smith (2) Kimberly Caldwell (2) Kimberley Locke (3)
April 15 Kimberly Caldwell (3) Carmen Rasmusen (2) Trenyce (2)
April 22 Carmen Rasmusen (3) Josh Gracin Trenyce (3)
Bottom Two
April 29 Trenyce (4) Ruben Studdard
May 6 Josh Gracin (2) Kimberley Locke (4)
Final Three
May 13 Kimberley Locke (5)
May 20 Clay Aiken Ruben Studdard (1)
  • Neither of the bottom 2 was eliminated on the April 1 results show due to the disqualification of Corey Clark.

Season 3

Main article: American Idol (season 3)

The third season of American Idol premiered on January 19, 2004. American idol was ranked by Forbes as the most successful show of all reality Television shows. By the end of its third season, the network profited more than $260,000,000.[10] The winner of this season of American Idol was Fantasia Barrino, later known professionally as simply "Fantasia," and the runner-up was Diana DeGarmo. This was also the season that Golden Globe Award-, Grammy Award, and Academy Award-winning actress Jennifer Hudson was discovered.

The early part of the season introduced William Hung, a UC Berkeley student, who received widespread attention following his off-key rendition of Ricky Martin's "She Bangs." His performance, as well as his positive attitude facing Simon's criticisms (a stark contrast to other hopeful contestants' confrontational, angry reactions), landed him a record deal with Koch Entertainment and made him over $500,000 in record sales. He also starred in a Cingular Wireless commercial with host Ryan Seacrest.

During the season, controversy over the legitimacy of the contest increased as rocker Jon Peter Lewis and young crooner John Stevens stayed afloat while others, such as Jennifer Hudson, who had become a favorite to win,[11] were unexpectedly eliminated. Jasmine Trias, despite negative comments from Simon Cowell over her later performances, survived elimination and took the third spot over La Toya London. Trias later released a CD and attracted fans in her home state of Hawaii, the Philippines, Singapore, Guam and other South East Asian countries. The third season was also shown in Australia on Network Ten about half a week after episodes were shown in the U.S.

After a nationwide vote of more than 65 million votes in total - more than the first two seasons combined - Fantasia Barrino won the American Idol title over runner-up Diana DeGarmo. She released her first single in June 2004 on the RCA record label. The single included "I Believe" – cowritten by former Idol contestant Tamyra Gray (who also sang backup) – which Fantasia performed on the finale of Idol, the Aretha Franklin hit "Chain of Fools" (released before on an American Idol compilation), and her signature version of "Summertime". The single entered the Billboard Hot 100 at #1, making Fantasia the first artist in the history of Billboard to debut at number one with their first single.[12][13] The song remained at the number one for one week (it topped the sales chart for 11 weeks in the US and 10 weeks in Canada). Fantasia's CD, I Believe, went on to become the top selling single of 2004 in the U.S. and has since been certified double platinum by the CRIA and received 3 Billboard Music Awards. In 2006, she received 4 Grammy nominations for her double platinum debut album Free Yourself.

Sales of Diana DeGarmo's first CD, Blue Skies, suffered partly from a lack of promotion by RCA. DeGarmo eventually asked to be released from her RCA record contract. She received a role in the Broadway production of Hairspray, where she played the part of Penny Pingleton from February 7 May 21 to positive reviews. DeGarmo then starred with Melba Moore in the national tour of Brooklyn the Musical through mid-August. On September 8, she returned to the Broadway production of Hairspray to once again assume the role of Penny Pingleton for a six month period. DeGarmo is also working independently on a second album while performing in the musicals. She recently appeared on the CMT reality show Gone Country.

Jasmine Trias signed with an independent label. Although she has failed to achieve commercial success in the mainland USA, she has become a major celebrity in other countries, such as the Philippines and Japan, where she is signed with Universal Records.

La Toya London signed with Peak Records and released an R&B/soul album, "Love & Life," selling 55,000 copies. Her single, "Appreciate/Every Part of Me/All by Myself," charted at number 8 on the Billboard Singles Sales Chart, and her songs, "Appreciate," "Every Part of Me," and "State of My Heart," all received moderate success on urban and adult contemporary radio. She starred in the Los Angeles revival of the retro-musical, "Beehive," and also starred with Angie Stone and Kim Fields in the tour of the play, "Issues: We All Got 'Em." London played the role of Nettie in the touring production of the Broadway musical, The Color Purple, which began with an extended run in Chicago, Illinois in April, 2007. The musical also starred Michelle Williams of Destiny's Child.

George Huff signed with Word Records to release a gospel album and has since had mild success in that genre. John Stevens landed a deal with Maverick Records but was dropped due to low album sales.

Jennifer Hudson starred alongside Beyoncé Knowles and Jamie Foxx in the 2006 feature film Dreamgirls and won several honors and awards, including a Golden Globe for her performance and an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. The film, which also won the Golden Globe for Best Picture (Comedy or Musical), sold 8.8 million dollars worth of tickets to claim the top spot at the box office on its first day in wide theatrical release, which was the single highest daily gross for a musical in motion picture history. The soundtrack to Dreamgirls, featuring Hudson's acclaimed version of "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going," reached Number One on the Billboard Top 200 album chart on January 10, 2007, after five weeks in release. Her latest picture, the hit movie Sex and the City, based on the television series, went on to the number one spot at the box office grossing more than 57 million dollars its first weekend. Hudson played a secretary for Sarah Jessica Parker's character, looking for love. Hudson, who signed a recording contract with Clive Davis' Arista label in late 2006, released her debut album in September 2008.

Camile Velasco returned to the Philippines in December 2004 after 17 years for a whirlwind tour of television appearances and a concert with Martin Nievera. In 2005, she signed to Motown Records, but left the label after a lack of promotion for her first single. Camile performed at several concerts in Hawaii, California and Illinois, maintaining her ambition to become an artist. In 2006, she appeared in a Black Eyed Peas video and performed in Hawaii, California, Nevada, New Jersey, New York and the Philippines. Camile is now writing and producing her own songs on Up Above Records.

In May 2005, Telescope announced that the third season had a total of approximately 360 million votes.

Date Bottom Three
March 17 Leah LaBelle Jennifer Hudson Amy Adams
March 24 Matthew Rogers Camile Velasco Diana DeGarmo
March 31 Amy Adams (2) Jennifer Hudson (2) La Toya London
April 7 Camile Velasco (2) Jasmine Trias Diana DeGarmo (2)
April 15 Jon Peter Lewis John Stevens Diana DeGarmo (3)
April 21 Jennifer Hudson (3) Fantasia Barrino La Toya London (2)
April 28 John Stevens (2) George Huff Jasmine Trias (2)
Bottom Two
May 5 George Huff (2) Jasmine Trias (3)
May 12 La Toya London (3) Fantasia Barrino (2)
Final Three
May 19 Jasmine Trias (4)
May 26 Diana DeGarmo (4) Fantasia Barrino (2)

Season 4

Main article: American Idol (season 4)

The fourth season of American Idol premiered on January 18, 2005. It was the first season in which the age limit was raised to 28, in order to increase variety. All Season 4 contestants had to be between the ages of 16 and 28 on August 4, 2004, born on or between August 5, 1975 and August 4, 1988.[14][15] Among those who benefited from this new rule were Constantine Maroulis (born September 17, 1975) and Bo Bice (born November 1, 1975), considered to be the eldest and somewhat most experienced of the season's Idol contestants. They were also constantly mentioned by Seacrest and in the media as "the two rockers", since their long hair and choice of rock songs made them stand out from conventional Idol standards. The presence of more rock-oriented contestants continued with Chris Daughtry[16] in Season 5, who was inspired to audition for the show by Bice.

This season also implemented new rules for the final portion of the contest. Instead of competing in semi-final heats in which the top vote-getters are promoted to the final round, 24 semi-finalists were named; 12 men and 12 women, who competed separately, with 2 of each gender being voted off each week until 12 finalists were left.

Mario Vazquez, who was originally one of the top 12, dropped out of the competition on March 11, just days before the top 12's first performance, citing "personal issues", opening a spot in the final 12 for Nikko Smith (son of Baseball Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith), who had been voted off in the semi-finals the previous week.

The winner was Carrie Underwood, a country singer. Carrie Underwood's first single, "Inside Your Heaven", was released on June 14, 2005. The single debuted at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, with first-week sales of 170,000 copies, and briefly stopped Mariah Carey's run at #1 with "We Belong Together". One week later, runner-up Bo Bice released his version of the song, which debuted at #2. The B-side of Underwood's CD was "Independence Day", a cover of the Martina McBride hit. On November 15, 2005, Carrie released her debut album, Some Hearts, which both debuted and peaked at #2 on Billboard. Underwood's first single, "Jesus, Take the Wheel" was made available for radio airplay on October 18, 2005. The single also debuted at #48 on the Billboard Hot 100 where it peaked at #20.

Bo Bice's first single "The Real Thing" has appeared on American Top 40 radio. Although Bice's sales did not match that of Underwood, he stands as the third-most successful recording artist to not win the American Idol title with RIAA platinum status. Third-place contestant Vonzell Solomon landed a role in a film, Still Green and a single on a Christmas album. Fourth-place contestant Anthony Fedorov has appeared in television shows such as Fear Factor, where he competed with Season 2 contestant Carmen Rasmusen, winning second place, and has finished taping several episodes for a new MTV show to air in the fall. Federov will be performing in The Fantasticks on off-Broadway May through July 2007. Sixth-place contestant Constantine Maroulis has redone his rendition of "Bohemian Rhapsody" for a Queen tribute album, and released his first full-length solo album in 2007. Since August 2006, Maroulis has appeared in the Broadway musical The Wedding Singer and the now closed off-broadway play Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris and has appeared on CBS' The Bold & the Beautiful. Seventh-place contestant Anwar Robinson has released his self-titled EP on an independent label. Twelfth-place contestant Lindsey Cardinale's first single, "Nothing Like A Dream", was released in March 2006.

In May 2005, Telescope announced that the fourth season had a total of approximately 500 million votes.

On February 11, 2007, Carrie Underwood became the first winner of American Idol to sweep all three major music awards (American Music, Billboard, and Grammy Awards) in a single season (for 2006-2007),(2007-2008) & (2008-2009).

Date Bottom Three
March 16 Lindsey Cardinale Mikalah Gordon Jessica Sierra
March 23 Mikalah Gordon (2) Nadia Turner Anthony Federov
March 30 Jessica Sierra (2) Anwar Robinson Nadia Turner (2)
April 6 Nikko Smith Scott Savol Vonzell Solomon
April 13 Nadia Turner (3) Bo Bice Scott Savol (2)
April 20 Anwar Robinson (2) Anthony Federov (2) Scott Savol (3)
April 27 Constantine Maroulis Anthony Federov (3) Vonzell Solomon (2)
Bottom Two
May 4 Scott Savol (4) Anthony Federov (4)
May 11 Anthony Federov (5) Vonzell Solomon (3)
Final Three
May 18 Vonzell Solomon (4)
May 25 Bo Bice (2) Carrie Underwood
  • None of the bottom 3 on the April 20 results show were sent back to safety before the elimination announcement.

Season 5

Main article: American Idol (season 5)

The fifth season of American Idol began on January 17, 2006; this was the first season of the series to be aired in high definition. It remains highest-rated season in the show's run so far. Auditions were in Austin, Boston, Chicago, Denver and San Francisco, with Greensboro, North Carolina and Las Vegas, Nevada included after the cancellation of the Memphis auditions due to Hurricane Katrina. The season used the same rules as Season 4.[17][18]

Taylor Hicks was named American Idol on May 24, 2006; he was the fourth contestant to never fall into any week's "bottom three". His first post-Idol single, "Do I Make You Proud", would debut at #1 and be certified gold.[19] Hicks' album, Taylor Hicks, has sold 702,000 copies to date.

On May 30, 2006, Telescope announced that a total of 63.5 million votes were cast in the finale round. A total of 580 million votes were cast in the entire season.[20] Taylor Hicks is the second American Idol winner from the city of Birmingham, Alabama (the first being Ruben Studdard), and the fourth finalist with close ties to the city.

The fifth-season contestant with the most commercial success is fourth-place finisher Chris Daughtry, now lead singer of the band Daughtry. Their eponymous debut album has sold over 5 million copies to date - surpassing former winners Studdard and Fantasia's respective two-album totals - and produced two top-ten singles. The album, which spent two weeks at #1 in the US, is also the fastest-selling debut rock album in Soundscan history.[21]

As of November 2008: Runner-up Katharine McPhee's debut album has sold 374,000 copies; she has two Top 40 Billboard hits. Also notable: sixth-place finisher Kellie Pickler, whose Small Town Girl reached #1 on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart and has sold over 795,000 copies. Third-place finisher Elliott Yamin's eponymous debut album was certified gold and produced a platinum-selling single. Eighth-place finisher Bucky Covington's self-titled debut album has sold 384,000 copies and generated a top 20 and two top 10 hits on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart. Ninth-place finisher Mandisa's True Beauty album earned a Grammy Award nomination for Best Pop/Contemporary Gospel Album in 2007.

Date Bottom Three
March 15 Melissa McGhee Lisa Tucker Ace Young
March 22 Kevin Covais Bucky Covington Lisa Tucker (2)
March 29 Lisa Tucker (3) Katharine McPhee Ace Young (2)
April 5 Mandisa Elliott Yamin Paris Bennett
April 12 Bucky Covington (2) Ace Young (3) Elliott Yamin (2)
April 19 Ace Young (4) Chris Daughtry Paris Bennett (2)
Bottom Two
April 26 Kellie Pickler Paris Bennett (3)
May 3 Paris Bennett (4) Elliott Yamin (3)
May 10 Chris Daughtry (2) Katharine McPhee (2)
Final Three
May 17 Elliott Yamin (4)
May 24 Katharine McPhee (3) Taylor Hicks
  • None of the bottom 3 on the April 12 results show were sent back to safety before the elimination announcement.

Season 6

Main article: American Idol (season 6)

The sixth season began on Tuesday, January 16, 2007. The premiere episode of the season drew a massive audience of 37.7 million viewers, peaking in the last half hour with more than 41 million viewers.[22] Jordin Sparks was declared the winner on May 23, 2007, at 10:05 EST, with a new record of 74 million votes in the finale against runner-up Blake Lewis.

Teenager Sanjaya Malakar was the season's most polarizing and talked about American Idol contestant,[23][24] as he continued to survive elimination for several weeks. The weblog Vote for the Worst and satellite radio personality Howard Stern both encouraged fans to vote for Sanjaya. However, on April 18, after over 38 million votes, Sanjaya was voted off.

The Top 6 singers performed inspirational music as a part of the first ever "Idol Gives Back" telethon-inspired event which raised more than $60 million in corporate and viewer donations.[25] None of the singers were eliminated, and the votes from that week were added to the votes from the following week to eliminate two singers. Both weeks saw a two-hour extension of the regular two-hour voting window, and in the end, with a two-week total of over 135 million votes, Chris Richardson and Phil Stacey were eliminated. The next week, Lakisha Jones was sent packing after 45 million votes were cast, a result Simon had successfully predicted. Then, in the top 3, Melinda Doolittle, a frontrunner of the show, was ousted after nearly 60 million votes, despite predictions from Randy Jackson and Simon Cowell that she should be in the finale.

A little over a month earlier, the show had launched the American Idol Songwriter contest which enabled fans to select the "coronation song" to be performed by whichever two contestants made it to the finale. In the songwriting contest, amateur songwriters were able to submit original songs they had written and recorded. A selection committee headed by Idol creator Simon Fuller then narrowed thousands of submissions down to twenty finalists. With "one online vote per fan," fans were able to listen to snippets from each song and rate them. When the ratings were tallied, the winning song was the ballad "This is My Now" co-written by Scott Krippayne and Jeff Peabody.

In the finale, both Jordin and Blake started the night off strong. However, the final song of the night was "This is My Now," the winner of the American Idol Songwriter contest. Since the song had been specifically written for the American Idol finale, neither contestant was allowed much flexibility to make it their own. Some fans complained that this song was written in Jordin's style of singing which would give her an advantange over Blake. In fact, the next night, Simon predicted that Jordin would win purely on this final song. At the end of the episode, Ryan confirmed both Randy's and Simon's predictions announcing Jordin Sparks the Season 6 winner of American Idol, after approximately 74 million votes.

Jordin Sparks first non American Idol single was the top hit (peaking at #8) Tattoo, which received platinum certification. Blake Lewis's single was Break Anotha!, which failed to chart the Billboard Hot 100.

Jordin's second single is the Billboard Hot 100 #3 hit No Air with Chris Brown. The song went to #1 in several countries, and also topped Billboard's Pop Airplay chart. The song had been certified platinum in April but recently passed the 2.5 million copies mark. The song peaked at #2 on Billboard's Pop chart, and became the biggest #2 ever (in terms of bullet). Jordin recently released a third single off her album, One Step At A Time, which has peaked at #17. Making Jordin the only American Idol contestant EVER to have their first 4 singles become a Top 20 Hit. One Step at a Time has so far sold 1 million copies so far and is certified platinum.

Blake's second single "How Many Words" also failed to chart the Billboard hot 100, peaking only at 25 in the Bubbling Under chart (hot 100 equivalent = 125). Shortly afterward, Blake confirmed that he had been dropped by Arista records. His album sales are just over 300,000. The drop also canceled Blake's apparent plans for a third single release.

Phil Stacey, tied for fifth place with Chris Richardson, is now signed to Lyric Street and has released his first single If You Didn't Love Me. Tenth place finalist Chris Sligh recently released a Christian album after signing with Brash Music.

This season of American Idol produced two Top 3 contestants that were never in bottom 2 or 3, Jordin Sparks (the Season 6 winner) and Melinda Doolittle (third place). They are joined by Kelly Clarkson, Clay Aiken, Carrie Underwood, Taylor Hicks as Top 3 contestants never to have been in the bottom 2 or 3.

Jordin recently signed a deal for a clothing line with Wet Seal. Wet Seal has stated in an interview that Jordin is the perfect teenage role model that kids look up to. The clothing line was released on November 19, 2008 and has sold astonishingly over 5 million dollars of merchandise.

Date Bottom Three
March 14 Brandon Rogers Sanjaya Malakar Phil Stacey
March 21 Stephanie Edwards Chris Richardson
March 28 Chris Sligh Haley Scarnato Phil Stacey (2)
April 4 Gina Glocksen Haley Scarnato (2) Phil Stacey (3)
April 11 Haley Scarnato(3) Phil Stacey (4) Chris Richardson (2)
April 18 Sanjaya Malakar (2) LaKisha Jones Blake Lewis
Bottom Two
May 2 Phil Stacey (5) Chris Richardson (3)
Final Four
May 9 LaKisha Jones (2)
May 16 Melinda Doolittle
May 23 Blake Lewis (2) Jordin Sparks
  • On the March 21 results show, only the bottom two were announced.
  • From the Final 6 onward, only the names of the eliminated contestants were announced, with no mention of a bottom three or two.

Season 7

Main article: American Idol (season 7)

American Idol returned for its seventh season on January 15, 2008[26] for a two-day, four-hour premiere. David Cook was announced the winner of American Idol season 7 on May 21, 2008, with a record breaking 56% of the 97.5 million votes. Known for his rock-oriented cover versions, most of which he arranged himself, Cook was the first 'rocker' to win the show.

Prior to the start of season 7, Executive Producer Nigel Lythgoe admitted that season 6 had placed more focus on the guest mentors than the contestants.[27] Changes were planned for season 7 designed to return attention to the contestants by providing more information on their backgrounds and families. In addition, starting with the Hollywood rounds, contestants were allowed to accompany themselves on musical instruments.[28]

On March 11, 2008, American Idol debuted a new state-of-the-art set and stage, along with a new on-air look. The two-night season finale, as announced by Seacrest, was broadcasted live from the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles on May 20 and 21, 2008.

Idol Gives Back, which raised more than $75 million in 2007 for various charitable organizations, returned on April 9, 2008. It is said that the revenue earned from the April 9, 2008 event is comparable to the amount raised in 2007 and will be distributed by the Idol Gives Back Foundation.[29]

The media noted that several of the season 7 semi-finalists had previously had record deals, including Kristy Lee Cook, Brooke White, Michael Johns, and Carly Smithson. (Eventual winner David Cook released an independent solo album and had finished recording a follow-up prior to his audition for the show, but he was never involved with a record label or contract.) Idol rules state that contestants may have had a record deal in the past, but are still eligible as long as they are no longer under contract when Idol begins. Former Season 2 contestant Clay Aiken commented during an interview on The View in May 2008 about the general innocence of the contestants, that has increasingly been lost over the years. Aiken stated that the contestants are "increasingly more experienced than ever before".[30]

The American Idol Songwriter contest, launched during season 6, was continued for this season. During the top two performance show, each contestant performed a song he had selected from the top ten vote getters, but neither of their selections was used as the “coronation song”. The winning song, "The Time of My Life", was recorded by David Cook and released on May 22, 2008. The song was certified platinum by the RIAA on December 12, 2008.[31]

This season David Archuleta and David Cook joined Kelly Clarkson, Clay Aiken, Carrie Underwood, Taylor Hicks, Jordin Sparks, and Melinda Doolittle as the Top 3 contestants to never have been in the bottom 3 or 2. David Archuleta and Clay Aiken are the only runner-ups to have never been in the bottom 2 or 3. This season's finale was also the first time in the show's history where neither one of the Top 2 were ever in the bottom 3.

David Archuleta signed with Jive Records and his self-titled debut album was released on November 11, 2008. Archuleta's first single, "Crush", debuted at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #1 on the Hot Digital Songs chart, giving it the highest single debut of 2008. The song has sold 1.5 million copies as of January 2009[32], making it one of the most successful singles ever from an Idol contestant. A second single from the album, "A Little Too Not Over You" has been released.

David Cook's debut album was released on November 18, 2008, on 19 Recordings / RCA Records and was certified platinum by the RIAA on January 22, 2009.[31] Cook teamed with Grammy winning producer Rob Cavallo (Green Day, Kid Rock) on the album. A single from the album, "Light On", was released in September 2008.[33]

Date Bottom Three
March 12 David Hernandez Kristy Lee Cook Syesha Mercado
March 19 Amanda Overmyer Kristy Lee Cook (2) Carly Smithson
March 26 Chikezie Eze Syesha Mercado (2) Jason Castro
April 2 Ramiele Malubay Kristy Lee Cook (3) Brooke White
April 101 Michael Johns Carly Smithson (2) Syesha Mercado (3)
April 16 Kristy Lee Cook (4) Brooke White (2) Syesha Mercado (4)
Bottom Two
April 23 Carly Smithson (3) Syesha Mercado (5)
Final Five
April 302 Brooke White(3)
May 72 Jason Castro (2)
May 142 Syesha Mercado (6)
May 21 2 David Archuleta David Cook

1 None of the bottom 3 on the April 10 results show was sent back to safety before the elimination announcement.
2 From the Final 5 onward, only the names of the eliminated contestants were announced, with no mention of a bottom three or two.

Season 8

Main article: American Idol (season 8)

The eighth season of American Idol began on January 13, 2009. Auditions began July 17. It has been revealed that this season will feature fewer drawn-out audition episodes and more half-hour result shows.[34] Mike Darnell, the president of alternative programming for Fox, stated that this season the contestants will be more emotional and viewers will see more of their reality and emotional state.[35] Also this season will have a fourth judge on the panel: record producer and songwriter Kara DioGuardi.[36]

After Fox and producers promised changes to the show, on August 4 showrunner and executive producer Nigel Lythgoe announced he was leaving "Idol" to focus on international versions of his other show So You Think You Can Dance.[37]

It was also announced that Idol Gives Back will not return this season due to the ongoing economic crisis and recession.[38]

This season will feature for the first time 36 semifinalists with 12 different semifinalists performing every Tuesday. The male, female, and the next top vote getter with the highest number of America's votes will make it into the top 12. This season will also feature the return of the Wildcard round last used in Season 3 with the judges choosing three eliminated contestants to advance to the finals.[39]

The audition schedule was as follows:[40]

Audition City Date Audition Venue
Daly City, CA July 17, 2008 Cow Palace
Louisville, KY July 21, 2008 Freedom Hall
Glendale, AZ July 25, 2008 Arena
Salt Lake City, UT July 29, 2008 EnergySolutions Arena
San Juan, Puerto Rico August 2, 2008 Coliseo de Puerto Rico
Kansas City, MO August 8, 2008 Kemper Arena
Jacksonville, FL August 13, 2008 Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena
East Rutherford, NJ August 19, 2008 IZOD Center

In addition, the Hollywood round was moved to the Kodak Theatre for 2009 and was also extended to two weeks.

Media sponsorship

American Idol is often noted for advertising its sponsors during the show's runtime. Idol showed 4,151 product placements in its first 38 episodes during Season 7, according to Nielsen Media Research.[41] Being the number-one-rated show in the United States, it costs around $700,000 for a 30-second commercial.[42]

Coca-Cola is a major sponsor in the U.S., and all the judges, hosts, and contestants are seen consuming beverages out of cups bearing the Coca-Cola logo although video evidence suggests there is no liquid in the cups.[43] Contestants and host Seacrest are shown gathering for a "Keeping it Real" segment between songs in the "Coca-Cola Red Room," the show's equivalent to the traditional green room. (During rebroadcast on ITV in the UK, the Coca-Cola logo is obscured in the shots.) In seasons 1 through 4, after every Wednesday results show, the host and remaining contestants meet in the Coca-Cola Red Room to discuss next week's theme; the footage of this meeting is shown at the start of the following Tuesday's performance show. The red room was removed in Season 7 at the beginning of the top 12 when American Idol switched to a new stage. Highlights of the show were also featured on the official American Idol web site with a Coca-Cola logo surrounding them.[44]

Products from the Ford Motor Company also receive prominent product placement; contestants appear in Ford commercials on the results shows, and the final two of Seasons 4, 5 and 6 each won free Mustangs; the final two of Season 7 received Ford Escape Hybrids.[45] Previous contestants Kelly Clarkson and Taylor Hicks have been tapped to do commercials for Ford. Also, in the top 24's studio, in the red room there is a glass table with a Ford tire inside of it. The camera routinely captures the logo.

Text voting is made possible by AT&T Mobility, formerly Cingular Wireless. AT&T created an ad campaign that centered around an air-headed teenager going around telling people to vote. This kind of branding to American Idol enabled AT&T to become the favored system to vote for many Americans (Jenkins 87).

Apple iTunes joined as a Season 7 major sponsor in the U.S., and Ryan Seacrest notes during the program that all performances are available via iTunes. Video is regularly shown of contestants learning their songs by rehearsing with iPods.

Kellogg and Pop-Tarts are also two major sponsors, especially of the cast tour that follows the end of every season.[46] Guitar Hero was added as a sponsor during the Season 7 tour. Promotion included demonstrations during intermission as well as a music video featuring the top 10 Idols. In addition, David Cook and David Archuleta appeared in “Risky Business” inspired Guitar Hero commercials that aired during the Season 7 finale.[47]

Jordin Sparks, the winner of the sixth installment of 'Idol', filmed a commercial promoting the new "American Idol Experience" attraction of the Florida theme park, Disney's Hollywood Studios.

Contestants will occasionally don Old Navy clothing during performances,[46] and celebrity stylist Steven Cojocaru appeared in two previous seasons to assist contestants with picking out wardrobe pieces from Old Navy. Clairol hair care products also sponsors the show, with contestants usually getting Clairol-guided hair makeovers after the first two or three episodes during the round of 12.[46]



Main article: American Idol controversy

This is just a small sampling. See above link for full article.

  • American Idol has come under fire for maintaining what some claim to be total control of the careers of the winners of the contest. Former co-host Brian Dunkleman referred to the show as "owning" the winning contestants, noting that winners sign contracts to only record with companies owned by the show's producers and to allow related agencies to manage their careers.
  • During season three, controversy arose at the poor showing during the semi-finals of three highly praised African American contestants, Jennifer Hudson, LaToya London and Fantasia Barrino - collectively known during that season as the 'Three Divas'. After the surprise elimination of Hudson, Sir Elton John, who was a guest judge for that season criticized the vote as 'incredibly racist' in a press conference.[48] The elimination of both Hudson and London relatively early in the competition has been pointed out as a classic demonstration of vote splitting in the American idol vote.[49] However, it should also be noted that Fantasia went on to win that season of American Idol.
  • Since the 2004 season, American Idol producers have battled online community services such as the websites,, and DialIdol predicts which contestants may be voted off or are in danger of being voted off based on the percentage of times an automatic dialer encounters a busy signal for each contestant; Worldsentiment uses very large samplings and algorithms to predict the outcome of the vote-off; and VotefortheWorst exhorts viewers to vote for what the site deems to be the worst contestant, rather than the best. Some in the media have implied that Las Vegas odds makers exert behind-the-scenes influence in protecting the services.[50][51]
  • Season 7 contestant Carly Smithson has stirred up controversy due to a prior major label record deal she had with MCA Records. It had been reported that MCA spent over 2 million dollars promoting Smithson's previous album "Ultimate High", which she made under the name Carly Hennessy, due to an article's misprint. The album sold 378 copies, but is now available on iTunes. To further complicate things, Randy Jackson worked for MCA during the same period of time that Smithson was signed, and was part of the team that signed her to MCA. The show made no mention of this deal. In addition, contestants Michael Johns and Kristy Lee Cook were also represented by a major record label at one time and have made albums. [52][53] Contestant Robbie Carrico was formerly a member of the group Boyz N Girlz United, who had a minor hit in 2000 with the single "Messed Around", as well as opening for Britney Spears in 1999.[54] This new information raises questions as to whether this year's contestants can be considered "amateur", noting their prior work within the entertainment industry. According to a poll by AOL Television, 63 percent of those polled believed that contestants who have already had record deals should not be contestants on American Idol.[55]
  • In the April 20th, 2008 edition of Celebrity Fit Club, Brian Dunkleman made claims that he was not fired from American Idol and he was going to break his silence at that point. With that he made the claims that he left the show "because those kids (the contestants) were not treated in the right way". He then went on to say that leaving American Idol was the biggest mistake of his life.
  • Judge Paula Abdul caused controversy on Season 7, top 5 performance night when she slipped up, commenting on two performances when only one was shown. This has been cited by many as proof of American Idol's scripted nature. However, it was reported on the next night that Abdul had listened to some of the contestants' rehearsals and had gotten confused due to the rushed nature of that performance night.
  • In early 2008 former co-host Brian Dunkleman has publicly stated on Adam Carolla's morning radio show the Sanjaya situation was rigged and that his being kept on the show didn't have to do with votes. He also noted how Sanjaya magically disappeared from the show right before that season's "Idol Gives Back" episodes.
  • Joanna Pacitti was originally a top 36 contestant on season 8, but was later disqualified when when it was revealed that she had connections to the producers at 19 Entertainment.[56]
  • Raquel Houghton from Season 8 was lead singer for the band Valli Girls. She was part of a major record label, Sony Columbia Records, with and her band wrote a song, "Always There In You" for the "Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants" soundtrack. This fact has also been kept hidden and Houghton has been quoted saying she's just a waitress who mostly sings in the shower. She is also the ex-girlfriend of comedian and actor Dane Cook.

Television ratings


Seasonal rankings (based on average total viewers per episode) of American Idol on FOX. It is one of the highest-rated TV shows in the history of television.

Each U.S. network television season starts in late September and ends in late May, which coincides with the completion of May sweeps.
Season[57] Premiered Ended TV Season Timeslot Rank
Date Viewers
(in millions)
Date Viewers
(in millions)
1st[58] June 11-June 12, 2002 9.90 Final Performances: September 3, 2002 18.69 2002 Tuesday 9:00PM
(performance show)
Season Finale: September 4, 2002 22.77 Wednesday 9:30PM
(results show)
2nd[59] January 21-January 22, 2003 26.50 Final Performances: May 20, 2003 25.67 2003 Tuesday 8:00PM
(performance show)
Season Finale: May 21, 2003 34.24 Wednesday 8:30PM
(results show)
3rd[60] January 19-January 20, 2004 28.56 Final Performances: May 25, 2004 25.13 2004 Tuesday 8:00PM
(performance show)
Season Finale: May 26, 2004 28.84 Wednesday 8:30PM
(results show)
4th[61] January 18-January 19, 2005 33.58 Final Performances: May 24, 2005 28.05 2005 Tuesday 8:00PM
(performance show)
Season Finale: May 25, 2005 30.27 Wednesday 8:00PM
(results show)
5th[62] January 17-January 18, 2006 35.53 Final Performances: May 23, 2006 31.78 2006 Tuesday 8:00PM
(performance show)
Season Finale: May 24, 2006 36.38 Wednesday 8:00PM
(results show)
6th[63][64][65] January 16-January 17, 2007 37.7 Final Performances: May 22, 2007 25.33 2007 Tuesday 8:00PM
(performance show)
Season Finale: May 23, 2007 30.74 Wednesday 8:00PM
(results show)
7th[66][67][68][69] January 15-January 16, 2008 33.4 Final Performances: May 20, 2008 27.06 2008 Tuesday 8:00PM
(performance show)
Season Finale: May 21, 2008 31.66 Wednesday 9:00PM
(results show)
8th[70] January 13-January 14, 2009 30.4 Final Performances: May ##, 2009 ##.# 2009 Tuesday 8:00PM
(performance show)
Season Finale: May ##, 2009 ##.# Wednesday 9:00PM
(results show)

A growing number of television executives have begun to regard American Idol as a programming force unlike any seen before. Jeff Zucker, the new chief executive of NBC Universal, said, “I think Idol is the most impactful show in the history of television.”[71]

American Idol's consistent dominance of an hour two or three nights a week exceeds the 30- or 60-minute reach of previous hits such as The Cosby Show. As a result, competing networks—whose personnel call the show "the Death Star"[72]—have often rearranged their schedules in order to minimize losses. Conversely, FOX has used American Idol to help promote other programs on its schedule.[71]

However, since Season Six, the show has shown a steady decline in viewership. On the season finale of the sixth season, the ratings of American Idol saw a drop of 19%[73] from last year, when Taylor Hicks was crowned as the 2006 Idol. Ratings of the season finale peaked at 34.9 million viewers at 10 pm, just five minutes before Jordin Sparks was declared the winner of Idol.[74]

Season Seven coincided with the 2007–2008 Writers Guild of America strike, which, according to early predictions would help the show's ratings by eliminating scripted competition (Idol, being unscripted, was unaffected by the strike).[75] However, the ratings decline continued into season seven, starting with the premiere which was down 11% among total viewers and 13% among adults ages 18 to 49 from last year.[76] The performance show featuring the top seven finalist was the lowest-rated Tuesday American Idol show in five years among adults ages 18 to 49. The subsequent results show, in which Kristy Lee Cook was eliminated, delivered American Idol's lowest-rated Wednesday among adults ages 18 to 34 since its first season back in 2002.[77] Overall, ratings for the seventh season were down 10% from last season.[78] General attrition of television audiences was the primary reason cited for this ratings decline.

Initial numbers for Season Eight show further erosion, as numbers have fallen approximately 15% compared to similar episodes from Season Seven.[79]


American Idol is broadcast to over 100 nations outside of the United States. In most nations these aren't live broadcasts and may be tape delayed by several days or weeks. Episodes are aired live in Canada, Australia & Israel (for most episodes), Malaysia, India, Indonesia, the Philippines and the United Arab Emirates. In the instances where the airing is delayed, the shows are usually combined into one episode to summarize the results. Australia airs episodes just 5 hours after their US showing and the UK airs episodes 2 days after their US showing on digital channel ITV2. It is also aired in Ireland on TV3 Ireland 2 days after the showing. In Brazil, the show airs 8 days after the showing in the United States.

Currently American Idol is televised on TVNZ in New Zealand, Fox in the United States and Canada, MNET Series in South Africa, FOX8 in Australia,Channel5 in Singapore, ITV2 in the UK, Fox Life in Italy and Portugal, Global TV in Indonesia, 8TV in Malaysia, TV3 Ireland in Ireland, Star World in several parts of Asia, aTV World in Hong Kong, QTV11 in the Philippines, TV3 Viasat in Denmark, Sub in Finland, TV4 in Sweden and on TV2 in Hungary.

From the 7th season onwards, American Idol is exclusively being broadcast direct to Australia via satellite on FOX8 just seven hours after it's US premiere

It also airs in Matamoros, Mexico in English because that market has a Fox affiliate that serve a US market. The broadcast is live, as it is in the Central time zone on XHRIO, while in the rest of the country, as of the rest of Latin America, the show is broadcasted and subtitled by Sony Entertainment Television

Top-selling American Idol alumni

Main article: Top-selling American Idol alumni

Major award–winning American Idol alumni


Idol Contestant & Season American Music Awards Billboard Music Awards Grammy Awards
Kelly Clarkson
(Season 1, Winner)
4 12 2
2006 Best Female Pop Vocal
2006 Best Pop Vocal Album
Clay Aiken
(Season 2, Runner-Up)
1 3 0
Fantasia Barrino
(Season 3, Winner)
0 3 0
Jennifer Hudson
(Season 3, 7th Place)
0 0 1
2009 Best R&B Album
Carrie Underwood
(Season 4, Winner)
5 14 4
2009 Best Female Country Vocal
2008 Best Female Country Vocal
2007 Best New Artist
2007 Best Female Country Vocal
Chris Daughtry
(Season 5, 4th Place)
4 6 0
Jordin Sparks
(Season 6, Winner)
1 0 0

On a detailed note, Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood and Jennifer Hudson are the only three Idols to win Grammy Awards, although many of these Idols have been nominated numerous times. Carrie Underwood is the only Idol to win the Best New Artist category. Jennifer Hudson is also the only Idol to be nominated for and to win an Academy Award. She won the Best Supporting Actress category in February 2007 for her performance as Effie White in the hit film Dreamgirls, based on the musical of the same name.

American Idol Hot 100 singles

Main article: American Idol Hot 100 singles

American Idol video games


Theme park attraction

On February 7, 2008, The Walt Disney Company announced the development of "The American Idol Experience", a live attraction based on American Idol to be built at its Disney's Hollywood Studios theme park at the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. The show will be co-produced by 19 Entertainment. Set to open in February 14, 2009, park guests will be able to audition and possibly perform in the live show. Winners will be selected by a combination of audience vote and input from a panel of judges, although the exact format has yet to be decided. Winners each day will have the chance to audition for the real TV series.[81]

See also


  1. Top 24 finalists named; rejects may be restricted by Idol’s contract
  2. (2007-03-18). 60 Minutes [TV]. New York: CBS. Retrieved on 2007-12-31.
  3. From Justin to Kelly (2003) - Box office / business
  4. "Kristin Holt, who was a semifinalist on Fox TV's hit show "American Idol" last summer, will be back for the talent-search show's second edition – as a host. Fox has announced that the toothy former Dallas Cowboys cheerleader has been selected to join Ryan Seacrest as "Idol" co-host. She replaces Brian Dunkleman. Holt, a Texas native, returned home after not making the final 10. After hearing that the show was still without a co-host for Seacrest, she says she decided to give the producers a call. "I said, 'I know you're looking for a new co-host, so since I can't be the American Idol, can I have a job?'" She says she sees her role on the show as more than "just saying 'Welcome back to American Idol,'" "I can be there to give advice, or be a shoulder to cry on," she says.: Reality TV World quoted from FOX press announcement
  5. American Idol Outrage: Your Vote Doesn't Count
  6. "It's Going to be a Very Strong Season, I Think": An Interview with American Idol Producer Nigel Lythgoe
  7. 205 Flava claims secret payoffs to 'American Idol' winner Ruben Studdard
  8. Ruben Studdard settles lawsuit against Birmingham jersey-maker 205 Flava
  9. After probe, Paula Abdul to remain on 'Idol'
  10. Jenkins, Henry. Convergence Culture:Buying into American Idol, How We Are Being Sold On Reality television. (pg 60)
  11. Jennifer Hudson's elimination night on YouTube
  12. [1], Retrieved on 2007-05-28
  13. [2], Retrieved on 2007-05-28
  14. Template:Wayback
  15. Template:Wayback
  16. YouTube — Chris Daughtry — I Walk The Line. Retrieved on 2008-09-01.
  17. Template:Wayback
  18. Template:Wayback
  19. Deep in the bowels of J Records. Gray Charles: The Official Taylor Hicks Weblog (2006-09-29). Retrieved on 2006-12-21.
  20. Telescope Inc
  21. Daughtry News + Blog | The Official Daughtry Site
  22. 'Idol' Death Star Returns - Premiere ratings build on last year's ginormous numbers. (2007-01-17). Retrieved on 2007-01-17.
  23. | Buh-Bye-Ya, Sanjaya!
  24. Yahoo! Buzz
  25. Netscape Celebrity
  26. - Music - News - “American Idol” season 7 Auditions begin July 30 in San Diego
  27. ''Idol'' producer: ''We made mistakes'' | American Idol | TCA Press Tour | TV | Entertainment Weekly
  28. Wyatt, Edward. "The Return of ‘Idol,’ Confident in Season 7", The New York Times, 2008-01-14. Retrieved on 2008-12-24. 
  29. Idol Charities Still Waiting For Funds, The NonProfit Times, 2008-06-01, Retrieved on 2007-06-05.
  30. [3], Clay Aiken on The View Retrieved on 2008-5-08.
  31. 31.0 31.1 RIAA Search - David Cook
  32. Idol Chatter 2009-01-28
  33. Marnie September (2008).\
  34. OK! Magazine - First for Celebrity News - Less is More for Next Season of American Idol
  35. ‘Idol's’ emotional focus will highlight Abdul
  36. 'American Idol' adds fourth judge
  37. Lythgoe Leaving 'American Idol' Retrieved on 2008-05-08.
  38. American Idol Shelves "Give Back" Show for 2009 Season
  39. Fox releases 'American Idol' schedule, confirms format changes
  40. Who Will Be The Next Singing Superstar? - American Idol News
  41. Grover, Ronald. "American Idol's Ads Infinitum", BusinessWeek, 2008-05-28. Retrieved on 2009-02-11. 
  42. Fox Breaks Prime-Time Pricing Record
  43. Paul Abdul Fakes Drinking Her Coke
  44. Jenkins, Henry. Convergence Culture. New York, NY: New York UP, 2006. 71.
  45. David Cook Wins "American Idol"
  46. 46.0 46.1 46.2 Re the official American Idol website
  47. Guitar Hero(R) Hits the Road with the American Idols Live! Tour 2008
  48. Elton John Says 'American Idol' Vote Is 'Racist', Reuters via, 2004-04-28, Retrieved on 2007-03-02.
  49. American Idol voting,, Retrieved on 2007-03-02.
  50. Vote for the Worst
  51. Dial Idol
  52. Michael Johns American Idol
  53. Kristy Lee Signs In Triplicate with Arista, Britney, and BMI. BMI News (2001-08-07).
  54. Former Britney Flame Headed to Hollywood on American Idol - Fall TV Watch
  55. "Underwood most popular "Idol," Castro overrated", Reuters, 2008-05-19. 
  56. Joanna Pacitti out of 'American Idol,' Felicia Barton in. (February 12, 2009). Retrieved on February 12, 2009.
  57. American Idol does not have a ranking for the 2001-2002 season because it aired in the summer of 2002. If it had aired within the official 2001-2002 U.S. television season, the Wednesday results show would have ranked #25 and the Tuesday performance show would have ranked #30, assuming it would have had the same rating as it did in the summer.
  58. "Reality TV World: Ratings: ABC's 'Dancing With The Stars' finale hits summer highs not seen since 'Idol'", July 10, 2005. 
  59. "Cincinnati Enquirer: Television networks face reality check", May 25, 2003. 
  60. Viewership numbers of primetime programs during the 2004 television season
  61. Viewership numbers of primetime programs during the 2005 television season
  62. Viewership numbers of primetime programs during the 2006 television season
  63. Viewership numbers of primetime programs during the 2007 television season
  64. 'Idol' Finale Audience Tops 30 Million
  65. Ratings Wrapup: CBS and FOX Win, Again
  66. ‘Idol’ Takes Skinny Ratings Dip
  67. 'Idol' showdown brings ratings win
  68. 'Idol' finale matches last year
  69. Nine of the top 20 shows in 2007-2008 were reality; Idol’s performance show takes #1
  70. 'American Idol' night 2 draws 29.8 milion viewers. Retrieved on 2009-01-21.
  71. 71.0 71.1 Carter, Bill. "For Fox’s Rivals, ‘American Idol’ Remains a ‘Schoolyard Bully’", The New York Times, 2007-02-20. Retrieved on 2008-03-13. "If any of Fox’s rivals had hopes that this year might signal some hint that the monster — NBC favors the term Death Star — would finally betray some sign of weakness, those hopes were dispelled in just a week." 
  72. Bauder, David. "'Idol' Attracts More Than 32M Viewers", The Associated Press, 2007-01-30. Retrieved on 2008-03-13. "Rival television executives not-so-fondly refer to Fox's American Idol as the 'death star.'" 
  73. 'Idol' finale ratings down 19 percent
  74. 'Idol,' 'Lost' finish strong, but down from 2006
  75. Fox Exec Says Strike Is "Probably a Positive" Thing
  76. Update: Fox Pleased Despite 'Idol' Ratings Dip
  77. Ominous signs for American Idol
  78. ‘Idol’ Tries to Keep Viewers Guessing
  79. Inaugural ratings likely second best. Variety. 22 January 2009.
  80. [4]Template:Dead link
  81. Topic Galleries -

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