'American Idol' (also known as 'American Idol: The Search for a Superstar') is a reality television singing competition created by Simon Fuller and produced by FremantleMedia North America and 19 Entertainment, which began airing on Fox on June 11, 2002. Part of the Idol franchise, it is a spin-off from the UK show Pop Idol. The concept of the series is to find new solo recording artists, and has since become one of the most popular in the history of American television. As of June 2011, it is the most watched TV series in the Nielsen ratings and is the only program to have been number one for seven consecutive seasons, surpassing All in the Family and The Cosby Show, which were both number one for five consecutive seasons.
The program aims to discover the best singer in the country where the winner is determined by the viewers. Through telephone, Internet, and SMS text voting, viewers have chosen as winners 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 Grammy Award-winning record producer and music manager Randy Jackson, Grammy Award-winning pop singer and Emmy Award-winning choreographer Paula Abdul and award-winning music executive and music manager Simon Cowell. The judging panel currently consists of Jackson, award-winning singer/actress and record producer Jennifer Lopez and Aerosmith frontman and Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter Steven Tyler. For all seasons the show has been hosted by radio disc jockey 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."