American Idol is a reality game show/singing competition created by Simon Fuller and produced by 19 Entertainment, and distributed by FremantleMedia North America. It began airing on Fox on June 11, 2002, as an addition to the Idol franchise based on the UK show Pop Idol and has since become one of the most successful shows in the history of American television. In fact, American Idol is the only program to have been number one in U.S. television ratings for a record eight years: It was the most watched television series from the 2003-04 season through the 2010-11 season. In the 2011-12 season, however, American Idol's eight-year streak ended as the reality show dropped to second place in ratings behind NBC Sunday Night Football.
The concept of the series is to find new solo recording artists where the winner is determined by the viewers. Winners chosen by viewers through telephone, Internet, and SMS text voting were Kelly Clarkson, Ruben Studdard, Fantasia Barrino, Carrie Underwood, Taylor Hicks, Jordin Sparks, David Cook, Kris Allen, Lee DeWyze, Scotty McCreery and Phillip Phillips.
The series employs a panel of judges who critique the contestants' performances. The original judges were record producer and music manager Randy Jackson, pop singer and choreographer Paula Abdul and music executive and manager Simon Cowell. The current season's judging panel consists of Jackson, R&B singer Mariah Carey, hip hop artist Nicki Minaj, and country singer Keith Urban. Radio personality Ryan Seacrest is the emcee of the show.
The series was described by a rival TV executive as "the most impactful show in the history of television." It has also become a recognized springboard for launching the career of many artists as bona fide stars. According to Billboard, in its first ten years, "Idol has spawned 345 Billboard chart-toppers and a platoon of pop idols, including Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Daughtry, Fantasia, Ruben Studdard, Jennifer Hudson, Clay Aiken, Adam Lambert and Jordin Sparks while remaining TV ratings juggernaut."
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