Did Harry Connick Jr. Know ‘American Idol’ Was In Trouble When He Called Out Quentin Alexander?

On Monday, Fox executives confirmed American Idol will end after its next season. The once-powerhouse competition show had declined sharply in the ratings over the past several years, and its removal from the Fox lineup seemed inevitable, particularly with the growing success of another Fox program, Empire.

American Idol is also expensive to produce. Entertainment Weekly noted that Idol‘s viewership is still bigger than many shows that were not axed, but those shows perhaps didn’t have the production costs of Idol.

“While ‘Idol’ is pulling a higher average than some surviving shows, producing ‘Idol’ isn’t cheap—there’s famous singers judging the talent, a multi-city audition tour, and live shows to produce.”

EW said Idol‘s series-low viewership this year was 11.6 million viewers. In comparison, Shark Tank, a reality show on rival network ABC, pulls in about 6 million viewers per episode on Friday nights. Shark Tank was renewed, as was a spinoff show, Beyond the Tank. However, an entire season of Shark Tank takes just 17 days to shoot, as shark Robert Herjavec told Fox 411.

The one dramatic moment on American Idol this season was when judge Harry Connick Jr. called out Quentin Alexander for being “disrespectful” when the contestant called the pending elimination of one of his friends “wack.” Connick pointed out the opportunity Idol gave Alexander to advance his career. Specifically, he noted the cost of the program.

“Quentin, if it’s that wack, then you can always go home, because ‘Idol’ is paying a lot of money to give you this experience and for you to say that to this hand that is feeding you right now, I think is highly disrespectful.” [Emphasis added]

In retrospect, the comment seems to indicate Connick might have seen the writing on the wall that Idol was no longer economically viable for Fox.

Blogger Rodney Ho, who on Sunday picked up on a Hollywood Reporter note that American Idol was likely to be cancelled, wrote in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he was not surprised by the news.

“Reasons for ending ‘Idol’ come down to dollars and cents. Once a hugely profitable enterprise, I can’t imagine it makes Fox much money anymore. The show keeps shedding viewers.”

Fox TV Group chairman and CEO Gary Newman said the last season will pay tribute to Idol‘s many successes, according to EW. He said it will be a “season-long celebration” full of surprises.

The two-part Season 14 finale of American Idol airs Tuesday and Wednesday nights on Fox.

[Images: Getty]