'American Idol' ad rates plunge

The long-running singing competition is on thin ice.

By Jonathan Berr Oct 22, 2012 11:42AM
Couple on sofa watching television together copyright Blend Images, Hill Street Studios, the Agency Collection, Getty Images For the first time in five years, News Corp.'s (NWSA) "American Idol" has lost its position as the most expensive television advertising spot. It's another sign of the Fox singing competition's fading popularity, according to a survey released today by Ad Age.

The average price for a 30-second commercial on the Wednesday edition of "Idol" slumped to $340,825 from $502,900 last season, while spots on the show's Thursday broadcast hit $296,002, versus $468,1000. 

Though "Idol" remains hugely popular, the show lost a quarter of its audience last season, hurt by the surging popularity of rivals such as NBC's "The Voice" and the never-ending churn of celebrity judges. Plus, the show has gotten as stale as day-old bread, which is why News Corp. chief operating officer Chase Carey recently told investors that the producers need to make the show "fresh."

"I don't think it will have the ratings free fall that it did last year, but I don't think it will return to previous levels of viewership," Shari-Anne Brill, the CEO of Shari Anne Brill Media, said in an interview. "There are so many talent competitions on the air that in the end they cannibalize each other to an extent."

Indeed, season 12 of "American Idol" brings new faces to the judge's table, including divas those of Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj, who reportedly had sharp words for each other during the show's auditions in Charlotte, N.C. Whether that bad blood has been ginned up to boost ratings is hard to say. 

Country superstar Keith Urban is also on the judge's panel, along with Randy Jackson, the sole link to the original "Idol" lineup. The show is probably still profitable, but its expenses have to be huge. News Corp. has stuck by "The Simpsons" for decades, even as the program's popularity has eroded. Idol, though, won't be given as much slack, because of the changing economics of  television.

Comcast's (CMCSA) NBC has the highest rates, on "Sunday Night Football," where commercial time averaged $545,142, up from $512,367 last season. Media companies are spending billions on sports broadcasting rights, which have increased exponentially in value.  Some critics have argued that all consumers, even those who aren't fans, are paying the price for the industry's spendthrift ways.

The news, however, wasn't all bad for News Corp. in the Ad Age survey. Commercial prices for Zooey Deschanel's "New Girl" sitcom more than doubled to $320,940. Prices for "The Simpsons" and "Family Guy" also rose. Bart Simpson and friends commanded an average of $286,131, edging out the Griffins, who commanded $276,690 for a 30-second spot.

Fox, though, has seen double-digit declines so far this season among adults 18 to 49 -- the demographic targeted by advertisers -- as have CBS (CBS) and Walt Disney's (DIS) ABC. NBC has bucked the trend, thanks to the popularity of "The Voice." The Peacock Network also is seeing its audience become younger, which is more desirable for advertisers, while its rivals' viewership is aging, according to Adweek.

Jonathan Berr is long CBS. Follow him on Twitter@jdberr.

Oct 22, 2012 2:38PM
I would rather chew broken glass than watch Nicki Minaj on anything. The only reason I even watched a few episodes the last couple of years was to see something crazy from Steven Tyler.
Oct 22, 2012 2:37PM
Cancel the show already!!!! It sucks!!!! (that means no minaj,yea)
Oct 22, 2012 3:37PM

I have watched American Idol every year, but will not tune in again as long as Minaj is a judge.

Oct 22, 2012 3:15PM
The show is well past it's prime.  It was watchable as long as Simon was there as he was at least honest.  Now with two over rated skanks, Minaj and Carey, who will watch but those who love train wrecks.  It's done.  Pull the plug and call it a day.
Oct 22, 2012 3:46PM
The ratings are terrible and they think the answer is to add Nicki Minaj...  I won't watch a single second of it this season.  Adding Mariah Carey wasn't much better.

Hollywood is completely out of touch.
Oct 22, 2012 3:27PM
Jennifer Lopez isnt on any longer. Steven Tyler saved Idol...he's gone too. The Voice is going to have problems as well when their judges start leaving...next season...television has surely changed ...I'm bored with reality shows and so are many other viewers.
Oct 22, 2012 2:29PM
Who here doesn't think the arguments between the two divas isn't all scripted, then glorified so the viewers just cant' wait to watch?  OH PLEASE!!!  It's so fabricated, it's all BS and SUCH a desperate move.  It makes for great gossip, but that's all it is.
DUH!! what did they think would happen when you get Maria Carey and Niki Minija? YUCK. Two women who LOVE themselves to much to give good advice to up coming singers.
Oct 22, 2012 2:43PM
Oct 22, 2012 2:27PM
seriously?...I didn't even know it was on again.
Oct 22, 2012 2:54PM

Do you ever wonder how these outrageous advertisement costs are paid for.  The sponsors raise the prices on their products to pay for the advertising so in the end it is the consumer who pays even if they never watch the dang show.


Same is true for pro sports.  Even if you never watch football, a good percentage of the six pack you just bought goes to pay for advertising which in turn goes to pay for the outrageous player salaries. 


We consumers can be described as suckers.

Oct 22, 2012 2:46PM
It was done after season 4. Now they are just trying to hang on!!
Oct 22, 2012 2:57PM
AI was the grandaddy of the (questionable) talent shows until they started focusing more on the judges panel and not the contestants. When AI started out, the point of winning was to have a dream team of writers, producers, agents, publicists, stylists and record execs sweep in and whisk the winner away in a limo to perform their magic. Now they might as well win a raffle for a door wreath for all that winning Idol gets you.
Oct 22, 2012 3:17PM
" It is mot a talent contest, but a popularity contest"   Yup.. pop music.
Oct 22, 2012 3:25PM
In one word... "IDOL sucks".  Period.
Oct 22, 2012 3:22PM

I havent watched that show ever since the racist emcee called the Texas Tenors "white boys". Had that role been reversed, every black activist would have been screaming for his head. 

Oct 22, 2012 3:19PM
Idol has not aired yet.  I think they need to go back to the way it was in the very beginning.
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