Why ABC’s ‘Rising Star’ Failed to Gain Altitude

Rising Star Poor Ratings

The new ABC series “Rising Star” was intended to be a “revolution” in TV programming, as host Josh Groban reminded viewers umpteen times in the premiere episode Sunday.

But judging by the wobbly ratings, “Rising” didn’t fulfill Groban’s promise. And despite a pretty heady premise that aimed to turn what would have otherwise been a standard primetime music-competition series into an interactive extravaganza, the reason why the series came up short was readily apparent.

What “Rising” was supposed to do was shift some of the power from the judges (Ke$ha, Ludacris, Brad Paisley) to the viewers, who were able to vote at home for their favorite singers in real time via a branded app. Instead of waiting for a results show on another night, “Rising” shrewdly allows the audience to deliver an instant verdict through technology  that closes the loop between the smartphone and the TV set.

To the credit of ABC and producer Keshet Broadcasting, the app worked wonderfully in its maiden voyage, which is more than a similar second-screen TV gambit, NBC’s “Million Second Quiz,” could boast after a doomed launch last last year. “Rising” also did a good job explaining on air how viewers could do the voting, which enabled a thumbs up from 70% of the audience to vote a contestant through to the next round.

TV REVIEW: ‘Rising Star’

Even the way “Rising” managed to bridge the Pacific time zone with a separate voting mechanism was an inspired idea (though billing the show as being “live” at the beginning of the program was a cheat). Keshet hasn’t had to deal with this issue in other regions; the Israeli format is being aggressively shopped around the world.

But executing a concept well doesn’t matter when the concept is flawed, and that’s where “Rising” comes up short. There will be plenty who will agree with reviews like Variety’s that the premiere was just dull, but the on-air format isn’t really the problem.

The problem is that the interactivity at the heart of the show’s marketing is so slight in the actual program. The votes are reflected in a massive wall of screens that flicker with images of the individual viewers who vote; that wall rises to reveal the contestant when the 70% level is reached. To give viewers the opportunity to actually see themselves reflected on the show they are watching is a powerful notion — that’s why it is central to “Rising’s” marketing campaign. But the voters’ images are shown so fleetingly that it barely registers.

The wall-of-screens gimmick only pays lip service to interactivity, failing to do what is really needed to get viewers truly feeling a sense of connection to the show. No, a primetime series doesn’t have much time to reflect the potential millions that could be clicking on an app at any given time. But surely there is an unscripted format that will figure out how to do more to integrate viewer involvement in a way that can be a real draw and be accomplished in a way that doesn’t overwhelm less tech-savvy viewers.

Real-time voting reflected live is cool, don’t get me wrong. But there has to be more of a lure than being an anonymous voter who might be lucky enough to catch a millisecond glimpse of their face on TV. Why not call out a viewer’s name? Why not figure out some kind of prize? How about some kind of play-along feature in the app, which may have worked smoothly but its one-note functionality gets boring really quickly. It calls into question the whole notion of even creating such an app; voting could be easily accomplished on the social-media platforms where the fan activity already exists, as “The X Factor” did with Twitter.

There’s so much more that can be done to make the viewers feel they are a part of the show, and when someone besides “Rising” and “Quiz” cracks that code, it’s going to be a true breakthrough.




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  1. yrag rekab says:

    The show turned out great, i didnt think I would like Rising Star because I am not a fan of any of the judges. By the end of the show, I liked all of them. The winner of the show, in my opinion, was great. I think he would have been able to compete with the contestants on Idol, The Voice, or some version of X factor. Bring the show back.

  2. lisa says:

    Please bring the rising star back

  3. Lynnacworth says:

    Try these reasons that the show didn’t do so well 1) who cares what Ludacris thinks,2) who cares what Ke$ha thinks ever and 3) who really believes that Brad can think at all. Then add 4) show concept is past public’s saturation point and finally5) contestants sucked. Now that’s a summation we can all get behind.

  4. John Jamz says:

    This show is a joke now, The whole point was to be a “RISING” Star, Not a star in the making with a huge fan base. Macy is only up there because of the fan base, thats how you win on this show by votes. Whats the point on putting someone with a huge fan base already against people who dont. Still dont get it? or are you that stupid. Just explained this to my lost girlfriend who actually thinks this girl is the best singer on the show. I laughed at her so hard, told her the facts and she got mad and hung up on me. People cant handle the truth

  5. flegeLgi02/ says:

    Singing is a gift God gave to almost everyone, some just do it better than others. Unfortunately, I think we may have to wait another generation before we discover another Whitney Houston, or Barbara Streisand.

  6. If they want everyone to be able to vote, then they have to allow people to vote directly on the site, and not from a downloaded app.

  7. Jeanie says:

    Josh is a great host…. Ludacris & Brad are trying very hard to do a very good job…but, the singers are so awful!.. Actually the show sucks! Kesha seems lost, as she has on the tv spots generating (well, attempting to) interest. How much time does the show get…. to improve?

  8. Brad Howell says:

    I watched the first singer go through and was prepared to vote but before the guy was even 30 seconds into it the judges had already voted him in and so had everyone else. The guy was average at best. Not much talent and no chemistry among the judges either. I flipped over to Amercas got talent within 10 minutes or so. Its a joke that america is voting when the votes are in before the singers even hit the chorus. Too much tlak, hype and meager talent make this a show to avoid.

  9. jag says:

    Whats the purpose of the wall? why cover the contestant when the face is projected outside. Its like when you got 70 and up a big door will open and when its below 70 a small door opens. Sooooo?…

  10. Hugh Jaynus says:

    Letting the audience vote is a stupid idea. Sorry, most of the public will vote on looks, not on talent.

  11. Vincent Scherr says:

    There were too many commercial breaks. There could have been more contestants singing if they did not go to commercial after every performance

  12. Kristi says:

    Only 10 singers in 2 hours. West coast had no live say, unless you voted without seeing the performance, just the picture on the app. I have seen Josh Groban in concert and he has much more to offer than he did during the premiere. It seemed over staged and rehearsed. If they did less judge and host brown nosing, more performances and hold off on doing the profiles until they get down to the finals the show would move along faster and make it entertaining. Let the performances take center stage instead of the over hyped voting technology.

  13. l.proctor says:

    contestants look like they were picked from the phone book, slim talent, could never compete with the Voice or even Idol. Bad mix of celebrity judges.
    L. Proctor

  14. Marc says:

    The talent was above my expectations. The problem is that the show, like other talent shows, had too much talk. We don’t need 90 second introductions for each contestant. 17 minutes into the show, only one contestant had sung. We love seeing talent. The rest, not so much.

    • Mary Jane says:

      I agree. Way too much talk! Then, next thing you know, commercial break. No energy at all. Concept was great, but the the show really needs to pick up the pace. Was 2 hours really necessary just to hear a few singers?

  15. michaelZ says:

    LMAO that anyone really thought this latest gimmicky tweak on a dying format would be the hit for which ABC paid through the nose.

    Simple math: Cool gimmick + horrible host + worse judges + average talent – massively expensive promo campaign = another expensive flop for ABC.


  16. Terry Baxter says:

    ABC was “not available” on Cox Cable last night. I am sure this affected ratings. Did other networks have this issue?

  17. zing says:

    is ludacris standing on a ladder?

  18. jamiegreco says:

    The reason I didn’t watch is that the most frustrating part of any singing competition is when the people vote. Professionals recognize talent where people voting at home seldom vote on a talent basis, instead they vote on likability which is why you often see the most talented knocked out. A show based mostly on people who want to get their face on television doesn’t hold much promise.

  19. lolgtfo says:

    If anyone was bored with the show .. they are probably bored regardless of what they watch. Maybe LSD is a quick fix for people with ADHD or ADD

  20. Andi says:

    Sorry I had no interest in seeing the show last night. I am not surprised it failed.

  21. Cathy says:

    Ya ever think that maybe people just hit their saturation of these “talent” shows. I mean their on every station from every country. Oh, she sings beautifully *yawn* been there – heard that way too many times.Try original programming and maybe people will watch again. Just a suggestion.

    • Orl says:

      I think the saturation became too much in mid 2012 where there were as much as 4 different singing competitions between mid May and Sept. And does it take a bloated 2 hours to have performances? This is why the ratings went down on Idol and Voice. Plus there’s too much of a sameness the same kinds of comments from the judges, without really saying anything too critical.

      • max says:

        There doesn’t need to be another singing competition on with judges. The only show that produces any one that goes on to have a future in show business is American Idol. Even then there are only a few that make it. X-Factor couldn’t find a audience here in America, it’s gone. America’s Got Talent has produced maybe two or three stars. The other show, I can’t even remember the name (the one with the chairs) has never produced a star. They concentrate more on the judges than the talent. I watched it once and wasn’t impressed. The networks have to stop putting these shows out there, people just don’t want to see them.

  22. David Corbett says:

    It’s a tired concept and given the recent attempts of American Idol to find judges the pond has really been fished out trying to find celebrities who qualify as “expert” arbiters of musical taste. Add to that the fact that Josh Groban does not have enough presence or charisma to carry a show irrespective of the format.

  23. DougW says:

    But how much does interactivity matter if the program itself isn’t exciting? The X Factor was cancelled and American Idol is fading fast. No one is that psyched about another singing competition.

  24. Crystal says:

    “the app worked wonderfully” – depends on your device. I couldn’t even download it – “no support for your device” was the message I received when I tried to download.
    Couple of really good singers, otherwise, I agree. Boring format, interactivity minimal – oh, but the judges faces went large screen, multi-second duration when they voted. Although @eCinemaBostonTC does have a good point about Ke$ha.
    I spent more time watching AGT.

  25. I’m sorry, the critics are completely WRONG about this show – I LOVED RIsing Star! The thrill is in seeing if the performers can make it with the average viewer instantly. Josh Groban was brilliantly funny as host last night, Ludicris proved again why people think he’s a no-talent, arrogant hack, and Kesha actually came off as Intelligent. Brad Paisley was..well..Brad Paisley ie boring and stiff. Everyone I know who checked out the show loved it, and i’m betting that word of mouth will spread and that the ratings will improve and solidify during week two. It was WAY better than listening to a bunch of obnoxious talking heads (AGT, AI, XFactor). I loved it and will spread teh world And if the show bombs, it’s still going to produce a grade-a discovery in Jesse Hinch, who was just mindblowingly good.

    • A says:

      ABC must be paying you to give such great criticism. You even said Kesha sounded intelligent. Ha!

      • Mike says:

        Josh Groban was brilliantly funny as host? You have got to be kidding. He may be a talented singer, but he was terrible as the host of this show. Bad,

  26. S. A. Matheson says:

    This show is bor-ing. The talent was good, but the entire show had no pep or energy at all. Very dull and not a good fit for TV. Maybe for web-based entertainment, but the viewing audience is bored to tears.

    • Couldn’t agree more. Great app. Horrid talent (with the exception of a couple singers). Have Grobin sing and stop hosting. He makes me uncomfortable because he is not comfortable as host. Judges are terrible because they are trying to be nice when the talent is horrendous. I can’t watch anymore!

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