×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

As Ratings Fall for Fox’s ‘American Idol,’ Advertisers Likely to Stay Put

Coca-Cola, AT&T praise show as ad buyers say alternatives hard to find

Viewers may be leaving “American Idol,” but the show’s sponsors are not following suit.

The venerable Fox musical popularity contest this season to date has an average audience of about 14.1 million, according to data from ad buyer Horizon, a dip of around 20% from last year at this time. And while viewer interest may be shifting, advertisers continue to be enamored with Ryan Seacrest and the program’s ever-shifting roster of celebrity judges.

“The Wednesday edition is still the third-highest rated on adults 18 to 49, and Thursday’s comes in sixth or seventh. Both editions are still top five or top ten programs,” said Jason Maltby, a senior TV-buying executive at Mindshare, a large media-buying agency. “As long as the value proposition is there, I think people will stay in the show.”

Fox declined to comment on advertiser interest in the current run of the program.

Indeed, Coca-Cola Co. and AT&T Inc., two of “Idol’s” most prominent sponsors, say they are sticking with the show. “’American Idol’ is the ultimate wish fulfillment show, and remains a powerful platform for AT&T to connect directly with our customers,” an AT&T spokesman said via email. “The 12-season collaboration between Coca-Cola and ‘American Idol’ continues to offer engaging, groundbreaking opportunities to connect with our core consumers,” Coke said in a statement. A spokesman for Ford Motor, the third big supporter of “American Idol,” did not respond to a query seeking comment.

The sentiment reveals an interesting TV-industry rule: Big still sells – even when it’s getting smaller.

With everything from Hulu to Netflix to iTunes drawing viewers away from traditional TV-watching, even giant entertainment properties like “Idol” are vulnerable. And yet, in a sea of reality series, webisodes and high-quality “House of Cards” alternatives, “Idol” is still seen as a relative titan when compared to many other options.

Indeed, in 2012, when the show’s finale drew its smallest audience ever – about 21.5 million viewers – to see Philip Phillips take the “Idol” crown, advertisers still pumped approximately $836.4 million into the program, according to Kantar. In 2011, they spent about $731.8 million.

Will those figures hold in 2013? Ad prices for “Idol” have fallen significantly. In last year’s upfront, “Idol” was securing $340,825 on average for a 30-second spot in Wednesday’s show, according to Advertising Age – down from $502,900 on average in its 2011 run. Thursday’s show was commanding on average $296,002 for a 30-second ad, down from $468,100 in the previous season.

“It’s obvious that it’s not what it once was, and perhaps this year’s numbers are proving it more than ever,” said one ad buyer, who declined to be identified. But marketers remain intensely interested in the “Idol” audience, this executive said. The show’s viewership is broader than that of many others, often drawing both kids and adults; the show’s connection to music generates interest from consumers no matter what the TV ratings; and, simply put, it’s not so easy for advertisers to abandon “Idol” and still reach the same number of TV viewers.

What’s more, “Idol” lends itself to advertising plays other shows may not. AT&T, for instance, has used “Idol” to get consumers to test out new technologies, from texting in a vote way back in 2003 to using tablets and other mobile devices to choose an eliminated “Idol” contestant to join the show’s summer concert tour. Coca Cola on Wednesday said it would use “Idol” to enlist fans to help musician Carly Rae Jepsen complete a new musical track by the program

“It’s still a premium show on the network,” the ad-buying executive said. “It’s not like there’s a fire sale for it.”

Popular on Variety

More TV

  • Judith Light'Transparent' TV show Musical Finale,

    'Transparent' Team Talks 'Transformative Energy' of Trans Community

    As Amazon Prime Video prepares to send off “Transparent” with a musical finale movie on Sept. 27, the cast and creative team behind the show are hoping the impact of a character such as Maura Pfefferman (Jeffrey Tambor) will not be overshadowed by the controversy that the actor who portrayed Maura caused. “I believe that [...]

  • Cherry Jones

    Cherry Jones Wins 2019 Guest Drama Actress Emmy

    Cherry Jones won the 2019 guest drama actress Emmy for her work as the titular character’s mother, Holly Osborne, in Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale.” This was Jones’ second consecutive nomination for the role but first win. Interestingly, both noms were for her work in the second season of the dystopian streaming series. After a few [...]

  • Jane Lynch, Cyndi Lauper Developing 'Golden

    Jane Lynch, Cyndi Lauper Developing 'Golden Girls'-Style Comedy for Netflix

    Jane Lynch and Cyndi Lauper just wanna have fun. The comedian and the 1980s music icon have joined forces to star in a new comedy project that may be heading to Netflix. Lynch let it slip backstage at the Creative Arts Emmys that she and Lauper will co-star in a comedy that she described as [...]

  • Luke Kirby71st Annual Primetime Creative Arts

    Luke Kirby Wins 2019 Guest Comedy Actor Emmy

    Luke Kirby has been crowned the winner of the 2019 guest comedy actor Emmy for his role as the real-life comic Lenny Bruce on Amazon Prime Video’s “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” This was Kirby’s first-ever Emmy attention. He was nominated against a slew of “Saturday Night Live” players (Robert De Niro, John Mulaney and Adam [...]

  • Bradley Whitford photographed at the PMC

    Bradley Whitford Wins 2019 Guest Drama Actor Emmy

    Bradley Whitford won the 2019 guest drama actor Emmy for his role of Commander Joseph Lawrence on Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale.” Whitford joined the cast of the streaming dystopian series at the end of its second season, in episodes that were released after the close of the 2018 Emmy eligibility window. The Television Academy agreed [...]

  • TV Review: 'Transparent' Series Finale

    TV Review: 'Transparent' Series Finale

    Amazon’s “Transparent” will have a chapter, or a section of one, in some to-be-written history of television, in part thanks to how brazen and how daring its ideas were for its moment. Some of those were ideas that came to seem simply logical in retrospect: The show was a pathbreaker for trans representation onscreen, casting [...]

  • Jane Lynch NBC Relatively Happy

    Jane Lynch Wins 2019 Guest Comedy Actress Emmy

    Jane Lynch has been crowned the winner of the 2019 guest comedy actress Emmy for her role of comic Sophie Lennon on Amazon Prime Video’s “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” This was Lynch’s second consecutive nomination for the role but first win. However, it is her fifth Emmy overall, after winning a short form statue in [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content