ABC is doing a lot of tap dancing around the subject of how to fix its hit show “Dancing with the Stars,” and one idea under consideration is cutting back on production and airing only one season a year, instead of two.
Multiple factors are causing alarm for the network. Now 15 seasons in, casting for “DWTS” continues to be a challenge, as the show’s two cycles per year (“DWTS” airs in the spring and the fall) have nearly tapped out the willing celebrity participants, resulting in some rather lackluster “Stars” power.
Then there’s the ratings issue. The once formidable juggernaut is declining in viewership at an unsettling rate, just as many of the long-running reality shows are, including “American Idol” and “Survivor.”
But the sparkles and sequins are finally starting to sag too — the recently wrapped “DWTS: All-Stars” season was off in total viewership by 20 percent. While “DWTS” still pulls big numbers when compared to your average show — the Season 15 finale drew 16.7 million viewers — but that was still down three million from last year.
It’s also worth mentioning the post-season chatter coming from some of its most popular dance pros, like Derek Hough, who says he’s considering leaving the show, following in the footsteps of sister Julianne Hough. Pro Maksim Chmerkovskiy has previously threatened to quit “DWTS” but now says he will exit when his contract expires in 2013. These days, some of the “Dancing” pros are just as big a draw for the show as the B and C list stars, so that can’t be helping the situation.
“They have to figure something out,” an insider says, according to The New York Post. “Maybe change the judges. The show needs a total makeover.”
At a conference Wednesday, Disney CFO Jay Rasulo admitted that this fall’s “Dancing” “All-Stars” edition didn’t work out as ABC had hoped.
“We thought it was a great idea,” Rasulo said, according to Deadline. “Turns out people didn’t want to see people who could dance. They wanted people who couldn’t dance. So it’s not easy to be a taste-master in programming a network.”
For now, viewers can expect “DWTS” to return for Season 16 on March 18 — which is rumored to have at least one celebrity already signed on — “Bachelorette’ Emily Maynard.