Few television programmes manage to make it to a twelfth season successfully; writing gets stale, possible plot lines for characters become exhausted, and viewers get bored. So, for American Idol to make it to this stage is a decent feat in itself. However, it really isn't all that surprising for its viewing ratings to be dropping off a sharp cliff now. 

They are dropping off, but with the show's premier rating hitting over 21million last year, it still has a long way to go before potentially being cancelled. This time around, the premier scored 17million viewers, it seems like a lot but that's a drop of almost 20%. 

The first and most obvious reason for the drop is its big competition over the past couple of years; The X Factor and The Voice. The man behind American Idol, Mike Darnell, president of alternative entertainment at Fox Broadcasting, said "It's 12 years old and you can't expect everything to stay as big as Idol was." Adding that ratings could improve on the strength of newest judges Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj.

The disputes between Minaj and Carey that kicked off last year - including a 'death threat' - producers would surely hope to raise the profile of the show further to entice people to tune in to check out the arguments for themselves. Judging by the premier that hasn't really worked, but as Darnell has pointed out there is still the chance for the series as a whole to do well. Unless the show can switch it up a bit or have singers that are genuinely new and fresh, that is unlikely to happen.