Empty seats were common last summer at the American Idols Live concert tour. Two "American Idol" winners -- Taylor Hicks, who took the top prize in the program's fifth season, and Ruben Studdard, who won the second season -- recently lost their record contracts. And last season, the sixth, marked the first time that overall viewership of "American Idol" declined from the previous year.
None of which means that the "American Idol" juggernaut has started to weaken, said Nigel Lythgoe, an executive producer of the series, which begins anew on Tuesday at 8 p.m. Eastern and Pacific time on Fox. On the contrary, with the Hollywood writers' strike ensuring that "American Idol" will face even less competition than normal, the outlook for Season 7 of "Idol" appears to be as good as or better than ever.