Record numbers call in for ‘Idol’

609 million votes collected for finale

Voters turned out in record numbers for the sixth edition of Fox’s “American Idol.”

Overall, 609 million votes were cast through the five-month run of the show, besting last year’s top figure of 578 million, according to Telescope, the Los Angeles-based company that processes the “Idol” votes. When the show started in 2002, 110 million votes were phoned.

To vote for their favorite contestants, viewers either called a toll-free telephone number or text messaged their choices using their Cingular Wireless cell phones, a longtime sponsor of the show. As the result of a corporate merger, the Cingular brand was changed to AT&T Wireless during the season.

For Wednesday’s finale, which crowned Jordin Sparks the victor, 74 million votes were logged, another top figure for the show. A previous high of 65 million votes for a finale was tallied in season three, when Fantasia Barrino won in 2004.

That number also topped the 70.5 million calls made during the “Idol Gives Back” charity telecast on April 25.

The high figures, in addition to the strong ratings the show still generates, should certainly make the new AT&T Wireless feel better about its sponsorship of the show. The company, in addition to Ford Motor Co. and Coca-Cola, spend somewhere between $30 million and $50 million in sponsorship fees combined.

Last year, 64.5 million SMS messages were sent via Cingular. This year, the company launched new “Idol”-themed content, in the form of video and other downloads, to encourage more customers to use its new mobile offerings.

Telescope has overseen “American Idol’s” voting component for Fox, FremantleMedia and 19 Entertainment since the series’ debut in the U.S. It’s also handled telephony votes for reality fare like CBS’ “Rock Star: Supernova,” NBC’s “You’re the One That I Want,” ABC’s “American Inventor” and Fox’s “So You Think You Can Dance” and new reality-competish series “On the Lot.”

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