Singing For Their Supper: ‘American Idol’ Ratings Drop, Still Attracting Big Advertisers

March 28, 2013  |  

Have you been tuning into American Idol? If not, you wouldn’t be alone. The ratings have been dipping and with Minaj the only one spicing things up, it just isn’t enough to lure in more viewers. But even with the rating dip, advertisers are still hanging on.

So far AI has lost about 20 percent of its audience this season to hit new lows, reports Billboard.  Shows like CBS’ Person of Interest and NCIS are beating the show and the former blockbuster has been overrun by the zombie action on AMC’s The Walking Dead.

But the 12th season of American Idol has retained its status as TV’s advertising leader and the its biggest advertisers, including Ford and Coca-Cola, have stuck with the show.

“It’s still a top 10 show,” Brad Adgate of media-buying firm Horizon Media told the entertanment trade magazine. “Compared to several years ago, it’s not the ratings force it once was… But even if it loses 20 percent” again, it’s still valuable to Fox.

Last season, American Idol grossed a leading $836 million in ad revenue. But the trajectory inevitably is headed down. The show reportedly commanded about $500,000 for a 30-second commercial on its Wednesday episodes. Things started to turn down when Phillip Phillips had been crowned the winner in 2012, and AI has its lowest-rated season since it debuted in summer 2002. This affected the advertising for this year. “The current 2012-13 season began with prices cut to $340,000 per spot for the higher-rated Wednesday performance night episode,” reports Billboard. The ad rates will most likely go up for the finale this year.

But there will be another ad test for the show in May. Every year at that time “upfronts” take place in New York, when broadcast networks pull in billions of dollars in advertising commitments for the following  season based on their series’ past and predicted viewership.

“You’re going to see a significant drop” in May, Deana Myers of SNL Kagan told the magazine about AI’s potential during the upfronts.

Idol is still averaging about 15 million weekly viewers this year, compared to its 2006 peak of 30 million, according to Nielsen figures. But its demo has changed drastically. The audience’s median age has jumped more than 18 years, to 50.4, from season one to last year. Not a good sign on Madison Avenue, which prefers ads targeting youth rather than seniors.

But don’t count AI out totally. As Billboard reports, not many shows can draw weekly audiences of 10 million-plus in today’s highly competitive TV world.

And AI has pulled out all the stops in keeping viewers tuning in. Fox and AI producer FremantleMedia North America paid close to $18 million to Carey, $12 million to Minaj, and a reported $6 million take for Urban.

Is AI washed up?

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