Why didn’t The Sing-Off last? Who is on the cover of ICCA programs?

Ask ACB

Manuel leads us off this week with one of my favorite questions.

Everyone I know really liked The Sing-Off. It had great music and the elimination format kept it exciting. The judges were really good. I know NBC couldn’t keep the show on just because it was good, but rather it needed viewers. So that’s my question: why didn’t The Sing-Off have more viewers?

I don’t think there’s any one definitive answer to why The Sing-Off was discontinued, but rather a confluence of factors working against the show’s long-term success. But we’ll focus on what I would consider to be the two biggest reasons things didn’t work out:

1) The show went too long too fast. When The Sing-Off only aired for four episodes, it was a surprise success story. When it aired for five episodes the next year, the ratings were even better. But then the show stretched beyond its compact holiday season niche to a full half-season run with eleven episodes, plus a Christmas special. When the show aired during the holidays, the competition at its time slots was far less steep and the finite nature of the competition commanded an audience’s attention. Stretching across the entire fall demanded a much longer attention span and put the show in direct conflict with every show Monday nights had to offer—accordingly, the ratings took a dive. I loved The Sing-Off as much as anyone (probably more than most) but even I’ll admit that there inescapably niche elements to the show’s audience, and asking more than a million or so viewers to tune in for that many episodes was probably too ambitious—at least at that stage of a cappella’s development.

2) I can’t escape the sense that one reason The Sing-Off didn’t connect with a larger audience was the struggle to develop mainstream stars and stories. The nature of a cappella sees groups working together, but amidst these groups it was difficult for the public to latch on to individuals, and individuals tend to sell better to an American audience than conglomerates (I maintain that only relatively small groups—none with more than six members—won the show for this very reason--that people could more readily identify individual faces in smaller crowds).

I’m not sure how you solve that problem (though insisting on the same soloist(s) week in and week out wasn’t ideal) but I would pose that this aspect of the show would only have been helped with more real-time input from the viewing audience. With all but the finales of each season pre-taped, groups left the show without any input from the fans. Having the audience get behind an unlikely, un-network-endorsed dark horse could have added some real intrigue to the proceedings.

Mary has a question about a cover boy.

I went to my son’s ICCA quarterfinal last year, and then went to his semifinal. I kept the programs from both shows and noticed that they each had the same person pictured on them. Who is he?

Assuming Mary was writing about the 2012 competition season, the covers spotlighted none other than Christopher Diaz—a prominent alum of Florida State University All-Night Yahtzee, who went on to work behind the scenes at The Sing-Off, co-host the Mouth-Off podcast, and sing with a little outfit called The Exchange. Diaz competed in back-to-back-to-back ICCA Finals which makes him as fitting of a Varsity Vocals model as you’re likely to find.