This article was originally published on reverb, Drake Cooper’s reflections on advertising, creativity, and trends. Read more.

American Idol Ratings: How They May Affect Everyone Else

When an organization is in the #1 position it’s always smart to help sell the category as part of the marketing efforts. If the category does well, the organization does well. Sometimes they even pull others along with them…

But what if the leader is not pulling large audiences?

Here’s an interesting theory about TV media.

This spring has seen a notable shift in network TV viewing among the 18-49 audience. The New York Times recently reported that during the four television weeks starting March 19th that all four major networks were notably down versus the same period last year: NBC (-3%), CBS (-8%), ABC (-21%) and Fox (-20%).

While we all know that viewers also use online mediums and DVRs for their entertainment these days that doesn’t explain the all-of-the-sudden decreases. Networks have been puzzled as to why.

One leading theory: American Idol. This season the show is down 30%. (Too bad. It’s a great season.) Historically, Idol has done so well that it’s pushed many viewers into other programming throughout the week across various networks. The NFL does this during the fall and winter.

Another leading theory for the decline: Unpredictable Newness. Networks now parcel out their episodes differently during the spring. In March and April, for example, they insert strings of repeat shows so viewers can go weeks without seeing new episodes of their favorite shows.

Combine these two things together and quite a dip in viewing can happen.

Or, perhaps March was just off in general…