'American Idol' Returns, But The Big Ad Dollars Don't Follow

You may wonder how TV’s mighty have fallen. Better question: How will they survive now?

ABC’s “American Idol” has signed two major sponsors for its highly celebrated return: Macy’s and Johnson & Johnson’s Zyrtec, the allergy medication.

While at Fox for most of its 14-year run -- from 2002 to 2016 -- the show had bigger TV advertisers. AT&T, Ford Motor and Coca-Cola, held sway atop the biggest-viewed TV show during much of this period. And they got a lot for their money.

How much?  In 2006, “American Idol” averaged 31.2 million viewers. (In 2016, its last season on Fox, it pulled in 11.1 million viewers -- losing two-thirds of its audience.)

At the height of its power, “Idol” on Fox could command around $25 million to $30 million for each season from each of these advertisers.



The new “Idol” will not assume to have a large number of followers on par with the show’s previous high levels. Religious devotion to the original singing competition show was more devout. Now there is much more competition -- especially from NBC’s “The Voice.”

What is expected this time around -- just two years after its ending? Although viewership might be hard to figure, initial advertising dollars might be easier.

New top sponsors, Macy’s and J&J, are rumored to be paying, according to Variety, around $1 million to $1.5 million for the entire the brand entertainment/marketing effort in the show. All that is just an eye-dropper compared to the $30 million in its heyday.

TV has changed -- and so has big branded entertainment.

TV networks say marketers are undervaluing these deals, considering what TV brings to the party versus digital media, which still can't deliver major scaleable impact.

Nielsen's new efforts to gain better granular metrics and ROI data when it comes to branded entertainment may give TV networks a boost.

All that might help executives sing, hum, or warble a different tune.

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