'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 4:40PM
Oct 22, 2012 4:39PM

I am sick of singing shows. There are too many.

Oct 22, 2012 4:36PM

put it back on in the summer when there is nothing else to watch.

Oct 22, 2012 4:35PM

American Idol was great when it had no competition, but when they increased the age limit to people in there 30's it lost its charm, it was more interesting when it had an age limit of 16-25, people just starting out and not people who have been in the business for 10+ years...  I get tired of all the backup singers who now try out for American Idol, obviously they don't have it or they would of gotten a record deal by now...  People want to see someone new with raw talent...


I enjoy The Voice with it's blind tryouts but after that the show gets boring with judges pitting there own team members against each other....


X-Factor is semi interesting for the tryout stage but then becomes boring when the judges take the teams to their houses.....


IMO when the dust clears the only singing competition show standing will probably be The Voice, mostly because of the younger judges vs the has-beens on the other shows.


Oct 22, 2012 4:30PM
When you have 5 consecutive seasons with the exact same WHWG as winner, it became predictable. So, if you decide to watch this season's American Idol, which I am not, just find the white guy with guitar, and you know the winner already.
Oct 22, 2012 4:09PM

@ the real slim k


and lets hope it ISNT on.  borrrrrrrrring.  j.ho was bad enuf - imagine the battling bickersons.

Oct 22, 2012 4:05PM

The judges should be pee wee herman, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bill Clinton


Oct 22, 2012 4:03PM
Who can stomach either one of those obnoxious witches.   This show is so dead it is laughable how they are trying to promote it.   You have got to question the judgment of any company that just throws away their advertising dollars on this Titanic.  Stick a fork in it,  it's done. 
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 3:50PM
It's good for those who have some talent and chasing their dream.  They needed to cut the show in half some years back instead of showcasing people with 0 talent and rendering the show boring.  I've seen them send home people that was marketable and people such as Taylor Hicks and somebody Allen shouldn't have made the top anything.
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 3:46PM
Idol made bad choices this season and may have sunk a sinking ship. I will give the show one night but I can't say im looking forward to this season. I don't care for the new judges and when Mr. Cannon said "Idol" couldn't afford his wife what he actually meant was the show will not survive his wife. Her greed is so ugly...feed the hungry not a princess...
Oct 22, 2012 3:43PM
I don't understand why Idol paid so much for a has been like Mariah Carey if they are trying to attract younger viewers ?
Oct 22, 2012 3:40PM
They are sooooooo wrong if they think they are not going to lose as much viewership as they did last year. It's going to be worse. Much worse. Nobody, and I mean nobody that I know of is going to watch Nicky Minaj  on Idol. She is nothing but a Pig and won't get one second of viewing time from me or anybody else that I know. B-Bye Idol. I'm so gone!!!!
Oct 22, 2012 3:38PM
I'd rather watch X-Factor.  While last year, X-Factor sucked, when they got rid of Nicole and Paula and put in Demi and Britney...surprisingly...I'm impressed with the show.  I have NO interest at all in watching Niki.  I don't listen to her music or watch her videos.  I won't be letting my kids watch American Idol with her on there either. 

X-Factor is way better.  There is an actual interest and expertise being utilize.  No teary-eyed picking of favorites.  There's no mud slinging, childish backlash punishment for honesty, but seemingly genuine scrutiny for the best singers.  I'm impressed with Britney and Demi...they are taking this seriously.  I'm impressed with how well the four judges get along.  There's no grudges, no snit fits...they actually seem to like each other!  Imagine that!

American Idol can fade away...

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 3:32PM
Haven't watched since season #1.  It was old and bad (terrible) then.

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 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. 

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