Paula's Gone: What Now for 'Idol' Sponsors?

"American Idol" can't last forever. What should advertisers do about its further erosion -- and what, if anything, should they do about a key casting change for next season?

For the last two seasons, "Idol" finally succumbed to the viewer erosion normal  for older TV shows: about 10% per year.

Now one of its key judges, Paula Abdul, is not coming back for a ninth season. And Simon Cowell, the show's big star and most outspoken judge, has been mulling the possibility of his departure after the 2010 season.

Abdul's announcement comes just after TV advertisers made season-long deals with Fox, in the just-concluded upfront buying market.

Does anything change for "Idol" sponsors?

Brad Adgate, senior vp and corporate research director for Horizon Media, says Fox TV marketers already have built-in viewership guarantees in the show, so they are protected. Prominent "Idol" sponsors also have probably factored a possible Abdul departure into ad deals.



Adgate and other TV industry executives don't think an Abdul-less "Idol" will accelerate the show's viewer erosion. However, Adgate says a Simon Cowell departure would surely change the dynamics of the show to a greater degree, making it an event marketers would need to account for.

"Idol" is still the top-priced TV show, where a 30-second commercial can range from $400,000 to $600,000 or more, which can be a key part of marketers' TV plans.

With the upfront completed, Fox and other networks have made the bulk of their advertising "commitments" for inventory with TV marketers for the coming year. But most of those "commitments" probably haven't gone to "order."

In theory, TV marketers could  adjust their buys on Fox, considering the news of Abdul's departure. But it's highly unlikely. Though there'll be continued erosion for "Idol," and broadcast TV in general, the big Fox show remains dominant, miles ahead of other network programs, something marketers always crave.

Still, key content -- and drama -- could be missing from the show when it returns. Abdul's sometimes off-the-wall remarks and banter with the crusty Cowell, often found rolling his eyes at her remarks, will be missing.

Surely, new judge Kara DioGuardi can be fiery. But Cowell noted that less airtime for Abdul last season -- as well as her less controversial, more straight-ahead comments -- took away some of the show's grit.

Now, viewers won't even be getting that; neither will TV marketers.

2 comments about "Paula's Gone: What Now for 'Idol' Sponsors?".
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  1. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, August 6, 2009 at 10:52 a.m.

    Casual viewers may think her absence will hurt the show, but most regular viewers won't miss her predictable comments (e.g., "I felt your spirit") and sometimes addled behavior. She seems not-all-there some nights. My wife and I Tivo the show and fast-forward from Randy to Simon, although last season there was a fourth judge we liked. This new woman is non-irritating for the most part. I think the internal testing showed Paula to be a liability. As for yo-dawg-listen-up-kinda-pitchy Randy, we still like him, and Simon (who defines the show for us), and feel the byplay twixt Simon and Ryan Seacrest is sufficient adversity.

  2. Rob Frydlewicz from DentsuAegis, August 6, 2009 at 5:48 p.m.

    Although most of her comments may be inane that's what makes Paula so delightful. (And it's even more delightful when occasionally she makes an astute observation!) Not having her as part of future Idol's will be a loss. After all Paula & Simon are like Burns & Allen. (I'd be curious what her Q Score is.) Finally, without her on the show I worry about her because I think being part of it kept her grounded. Otherwise we may witness another case of celebrity roadkill.

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