Commentary

Big TV News: 'Idol' Goes On Hiatus -- But Not In This Country.


The TV economy must really be in a bad way. I hear they just put "Idol" on hiatus.

Make that "Canadian Idol."

The north-of-the-border version of the big U.S. hit is taking a break -- "resting," according to its Canadian TV network and rights holder, CTV -- because of a poor TV advertising economy.

According to reports, it wasn't really about the poor ratings. The most recent finale did between one million and 1.5 million viewers. That isn't too bad in Canada. But this was still about half of how its big sister, "American Idol," performs with Canadian viewers.

Among this country's viewers, "American Idol" has been down some 10% to 15% versus the year before -- but it's still a monster hit, giving competing network executives headaches when it comes to figuring out how to counterprogram.

CTV blames the weakening economy -- which really means some weakening TV advertisers.

"American Idol" doesn't seem to be facing anywhere close to the dilemma that "Canadian Idol" does. While major U.S. corporations are cutting back on everything and everywhere -- including much marketing and media -- one of "American Idol's" biggest sponsors is Ford Motor, one of the automakers looking for federal financial relief. Still Ford says it will return to the show, spending, according to some estimates, $60 million to $80 million in total media and marketing dollars.

Either this is a sign the TV advertising economy isn't that bad -- or that only selected TV shows will continue to be unharmed.

But one shouldn't be so sure big TV changes aren't on the way in this country. Already one sizable earthquake has hit, with NBC saying it is leaving the scripted TV business at 10 p.m. and putting in a new Jay Leno talk show.

Reading the North American TV viewer tea leaves means that next fall Leno should fill his show with lots of really bad singers, have him crack-wise and have NBC send more of his show north of the border.

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