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American Idol Ratings Down 19 Percent—Did Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj Feud Turn Off Viewers?

Randy Jackson, Nicki Minaj, Keith Urban, Mariah Carey, AMERICAN IDOL Michael Becker / FOX

Lesson of the day: Two divas don't make a right.

Despite throwing buckets of cash at new judges Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj and Keith Urban, American Idol continued its ratings decline last night, with the season premiere clocking in a full 19 percent lower than last season's premiere and 17.8 million viewers tuning in.

So what went wrong?

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The widely reported Nicki and Mariah feud may be at least partly to blame.

While it's also true that Idol is an aging entity and viewers may be suffering reality-competition fatigue (thanks to X Factor and The Voice), insiders who work on the show say they believe the bickering between Nicki and Mariah also may have turned off fans.

"People wonder if the fight was faked to get people talking about the new sason," one insider at Fox tells E! News. "It was not fake. And when the video came out, there was a lot of concern among Fox execs that there could be impact on the ratings. The judges need to be likable."

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That may explain why, in Idol history, only one new judge prevented a further ratings decline for her season premiere: Ellen DeGeneres in 2010. Though criticized at the time for not having a musical background, her easygoing, relatable personality may have helped to steady ratings. Perhaps Nicki and Mariah can learn the art of self-deprecation and goofy dancing? Just a thought.

Regardless, Idol is hardly out for the count. In fact, the season premiere, although down 19 percent, still helped Fox win the night across all key demos. And the premiere grew by 25 percent over the course of the two hours.

Will you be watching?

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