In a sign that a.) "American Idol" may have tapped out the nation's best talent after ten seasons or b.) "American Idol" is anxious to get buzz from the buzziest of viewers, namely those of the teen variety...the show will let 15-year-old compete next season.

 (Maybe a combination of the two?)

  The statement:

 "In celebration of the momentous 10th anniversary and in an effort to continue to find the best undiscovered talent in the nation, AMERICAN IDOL is expanding the eligibility age range for the first time ever to include hopefuls from 15 to 28 years old. (The previous minimum age requirement was 16.)
 
“A lot of young, talented people are now seeking careers and representation before they turn 16,” said Cecile Frot-Coutaz, executive producer of AMERICAN IDOL.
“Lowering the age limit allows us to tap into this talent pool.”

   This seems to make sense - to an extent - but people younger than 16 have always been seeking careers and representation before they were 16 - hey, Justin Bieber is not exactly a new phenomenon. 

  I suspect "AI" had been capped at 16 largely for practical reasons: Auditions, for example, are already packed enough, and by lowering the age even further means building a  huge entourage of parents and siblings, too.

  Also: A huge entourage of stage parents, who are not the funnest parents to be around, either.

  Of course, "AI" also has its eyes on Bieber et al; JB is 16 but became "big" long before his 16th birthday. If "AI" can - hypothetically - find another prebubescent cutie then maybe it stands a chance of adding more prebubescent viewers, who have bailed out of the show in vast numbers in recent years. (Of all demo segments, the teen decline on "Idol" has been sharpest.

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  So this all seems like a pragmatic move - born of necessity.

  Meanwhile...auditons are almost here.

   Nashville kicks off the process on July 17.

   East Rutherford is Aug. 3.