Taylor Hicks Crowned ‘American Idol’

May 24, 2006  •  Post A Comment

Fans of Fox’s “American Idol” crowned Taylor Hicks winner of the talent show, delivering more votes for the two finalists than any candidate for U.S. president has ever received.

The grey-haired, 29-year-old Alabaman beat out fellow contestant Katharine McPhee, a 21-year-old from Sherman Oaks, Calif. Together, they drew 63.4 million votes from fans of the show, which ended its fifth season.

The popularity of “Idol” has helped make Fox the No.1 network among viewers in the 18- to 49-year-old age group. The reality-show singing contest has also bolstered other programs on Fox’s schedule, boosting ratings for “House,” which struggled on its own and won new fans after being placed behind “Idol” this season.

“Idol” premiered as a summer series in June 2002 and unlike other reality shows such as NBC’s “The Apprentice” and ABC’s “The Bachelor” has continued to win new fans. The show, which lets viewers choose winners, generated hundreds of millions of votes in this, its fifth season.

American viewers have embraced the program and has served as a launching pad for the careers of winners and runners up, with the first American Idol, Kelly Clarkson, becoming a multi-platinum, Grammy-winning recording artist. Other contestants have gone on to careers on Broadway, and competitors including Clay Aiken, Fantasia Barrino and Ruben Studdard have become household names.

“Idol” has given a lift to Fox’s ratings each year when it kicks off, boosting the network from third or fourth place among the younger viewers prized by advertisers at the beginning of the season to the top of the heap for two seasons in a row.

The show is driving business to other areas of Fox’s parent company, News Corp. The “Idol” Web site is one of the most popular TV series-based Web pages on the Internet. It’s also propelled the careers of judges Simon Fuller, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson.

The series is executive produced by Mr. Fuller, founder of 19 Entertainment, Ltd., FremantleMedia North America CEO Cecile Frot-Coutaz, 19 Television President Nigel Lythgoe and Ken Warwick.