Expect ‘American Idol’ to score again
Media people predict another winning season
January 9, 2006
Someday Fox’s American Idol is going to whither away into a fond memory, something relegated to future reunion shows, reruns in syndication and perhaps even a Whatever Happened To type program on VH1.
But that day isn’t coming soon, say media buyers. Most think Idol, which is returning for its fifth outing next Tuesday, will do about as well as it did last year, when it generated its best ratings ever. The singing competition was the most-watched program last season, helping to push Fox to its first full-season win in adults 18-49.
It will be strong, there’s no question about that, says John Spiropoulos, vice president and group research director at MediaVest. The question is: How will it compare to last year? Because last year was strong, it will likely be down. But it will still be very successful.
Shari Anne Brill, vice president and director of programming at Carat, thinks American Idol will remain a top-rated program this season. She also expects it to remain a hit for at least a couple more years, in large part because judge Simon Cowell renewed his contract.
Every show starts to slip once it’s in its fifth or sixth season, but I don’t see that happening with ˜Idol,’ she says. This formula isn’t only working in the United States, it’s working worldwide.
The outlook for Idol is great despite the show competing for the first time with the Olympics on NBC, for two weeks next month.
Media researchers such as Spiropoulos are predicting Idol’s ratings these weeks will dip less than 10 percent, primarily because the Olympics attract an older audience.
And the outlook is good for Idol despite its appeal possibly being diluted sometime in the near future by reruns in syndication. Tribune Entertainment will likely confirm a syndication deal later this week.
Evidence of the show’s strength, and Fox’s confidence in it, is the fact that its producers aren’t tweaking its familiar formula. It’s often the case that producers begin tinkering when they sense a show has begun to sag, or is about to.
Brad Adgate, senior vice president and corporate research director at Horizon Media, says there’s no need to make changes, with viewer interest in the show as strong as ever.
The show will be steeped [early on] in comedy, focusing on terrible singers, he says. And it seems every year there is a controversy that pops up, which enhances the popularity of the show. And [Fox] has been very careful not to overexpose it, which helps because the demand is greater than the supply.
Media people see little risk of Idol suffering from the controversy last spring over allegations that Paula Abdul carried on with a contestant while serving as an “Idol judge.
Idol last year averaged 27 million viewers on Tuesdays and 26 million on Wednesdays, according to Nielsen Media Research. On both nights, Idol attracted nearly 2 million more viewers than it did the previous season.
Among adults 18-49, Idol averaged an 11.4 rating on Tuesdays, up from an 11 the season before. On Wednesdays, it averaged an 11.1 rating, up from a 10.5.
Perhaps the only indication that Idol lost some steam is that the 18-49 rating for its Wednesday finale slightly dipped from the year-earlier period.
Despite this modest rating decline, Idol was a giant hit and will remain so for years, says MediaVest’s Spiropoulos.
For a regular scripted show, I look at something like [the finale ratings]. But for reality shows it’s more about the people who are still alive in the contest, he says. That is supported by the fact that the season-long ratings were better than the prior year.
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