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Once in Hollywood, the contestants performed individually or in groups in a series of rounds.
All three original judges stayed on the judging panel for eight seasons.
The concept of the series involves discovering recording stars from unsigned singing talents, with the winner determined by American viewers using phones, Internet, and SMS text voting.
The winners of the first seventeen seasons, as chosen by viewers, are Kelly Clarkson, Ruben Studdard, Fantasia Barrino, Carrie Underwood, Taylor Hicks, Jordin Sparks, David Cook, Kris Allen, Lee De Wyze, Scotty Mc Creery, Phillip Phillips, Candice Glover, Caleb Johnson, Nick Fradiani, Trent Harmon, Maddie Poppe, and Laine Hardy respectively.
The first season was hosted by radio personality Ryan Seacrest and comedian Brian Dunkleman, but Seacrest remained as the sole master of ceremonies for the rest of the series.
The success of American Idol has been described as "unparalleled in broadcasting history".
In the eighth season, Latin Grammy Award-nominated singer-songwriter and record producer Kara Dio Guardi was added as a fourth judge.