American Idol, titled American Idol: The Search for a Superstar for the first season, is a reality television singing competition created by Simon Fuller and produced by FremantleMedia North America and 19 Entertainment. It began airing on Fox on June 11, 2002, as an addition to the Idol franchise based on the UK show Pop Idol, and became one of the most popular shows in the history of American television. As of 2011, it was the most watched TV series in the Nielsen ratings and the only program to have been number one for eight consecutive seasons.
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, and Scotty McCreery.
The series employs a panel of judges who critique the contestants’ performances. The original three judges were record producer and music manager Randy Jackson, pop singer and choreographer Paula Abdul and music executive and manager Simon Cowell. The judging panel currently consists of Jackson, singer/actress and record producer Jennifer Lopez and Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler. Other judges who have been a part of the show are songwriter Kara DioGuardi and talk show personality and comedian Ellen DeGeneres. From the start, the show has been hosted by radio DJ Ryan Seacrest.
The show was described by rival TV executives 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. As Entertainment Weekly puts it, “It’s given us Kelly, Carrie, Daughtry, and J. Hud. Idol rules the reality roost because the winners of Fox’s ratings juggernaut actually do go on to greatness. And Taylor Hicks? He’s the exception that proves the rule.”