American Idol is about to make one of the biggest changes in the history of the landmark reality show. Fremantle Media’s ABC reboot of the long-running singing competition will undergo a radical change in the voting process. Beginning with the April 29 episode, the American Idol audience in all 50 states will be able to view and vote at the same time, according to Billboard. Real-time results will be announced at the end of each Sunday night broadcast for the next three weeks.
ABC VP Robert Mills came up with the idea to simulcast American Idol live in all three time zones so that both East and West coast viewers are able to vote in real time for the show’s 16th season. The affiliates ate the idea up, and the rest is reality TV history. Mills spoke with Billboard about the change.
“When we got the show, we were tasked with what’s going to be different about ABC’s version. We talked about live voting…we love the immediacy of live. Because it’s going to be airing on Sunday, people are home to watch it. To their credit, the affiliates completely embraced [the idea]. They wanted to be part of something that is honestly historic. And it was so exciting for us because it puts Idol on par with the Oscars and the Super Bowl. Everybody in the country is going to be able to vote at the same time and at the end of two hours, the contestants are living or dying. And that’s a big deal.”
American Idol’s new voting format will mark the first time in the history of American television that a reality TV competition show will have a simulcast where the home audience can view and vote at the same time. Viewers will see votes come through in real time, and that should keep host Ryan Seacrest hopping during the live broadcasts.
In a statement to the Hollywood Reporter, ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey said that for the show’s reboot, it only made sense “to let every viewer from coast to coast experience the magic of live television and have the ability to vote for America’s next superstar.”
For the April 29 kickoff, the remaining American Idol contestants will sing Disney songs, but by the end of the show, viewers will have decided which three singers will be eliminated just weeks before the Season 16 finale. The live view and vote format will continue for three weeks, but for the American Idol finale on May 20, viewers will be required to vote overnight and the results will be announced on the May 21 season finale.
In addition to Ryan Seacrest, American Idol stars Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, and Luke Bryan, who serve as judges.
You can see current American Idol contestant Garrett Jacobs singing a song by past Idol winner Phillip Phillips below.
American Idol airs Sundays and Mondays at 8/7c on ABC.