American Idol Beats Lost: TV Wins
The prediction from yesterday’s post proved correct. Of course, there was a 50 percent chance it would have been true regardless of the hypothesis to get there. According to this story in the San Francisco Chronicle, there were 63 million votes for the two finalists. Another story said that number represented more votes than in any recent presidential election, but as a colleague of mine pointed out, multiple votes per person are permitted (encouraged), so it isn’t really a fair comparison.
Anybody who tries to argue that television can no longer pull a mass audience would have to leave statistics for the American Idol and Lost finales off the table. Approximately 43 million people tuned in American Idol during the last half hour of the show. As this CNN article points out, Idol beat out the final episode of Lost on ABC which had 17.6 million viewers. Together, that means over 60 million people watched one show or another during the same period. This compares with an average audience of about 90 million for this year’s SuperBowl XL. Not bad.
Even though television is facing competition for viewers and advertising dollars from other entertainment channels—Web, movies, satellite radio, etc.—last night’s audiences demonstrate that television still has stellar drawing power when it does things right.
Part of doing things right is working all the PR angles to the max. American Idol seems to have this mastered with publicity about the judges (here and here), publicity about the contestants and publicity about the event itself.
Bottom line, a 30-second spot in the American Idol finale cost $1.3 million each. That is a lot of revenue for a medium that some say is becoming less relevant.
It is also important to realize how integrated the marketing has become for shows like American Idol and Lost. The Web sites for each show take full advantage of the advanced state of interactive marketing and they also serve as a way to multiply both shows’ popularity and profits. Lest we forget, one of the keys to American Idol’s success is that it is interactive. People get to vote on their favorite performer and thereby participate in the action.
It doesn’t take long to ratchet up the machine again. The American Idol blog is already pushing the summer tour and auditions for next year’s show.