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Can FOX revive American Idol?

Posted by Scott Christopher on Thu, Jan 16, 2014 @ 13:01 PM

Well, it's January, and that means a few things. NFL play-offs. Crowded suburban gyms, and mid-season TV premieres. It's also the beginning of our busy media buying season as many of our clients are on annual fiscal calendars. This week all of us TV media buyers have been in the thick of ratings projections - the process whereby we evaluate the performance of a particular show by evaluating the Nielsen data and then project or predict how it will perform ratings-wise in the coming year/during our clients' flights in that particular market. We do this for all of the available programs we can purchase. It gets particularly tricky when we are having to predict how brand new shows will perform. But it's part of the art and science of the job that keeps us doing the work instead of machines - and it also means we watch a lot of TV which we don't mind.

One of the biggest questions for this spring television season is how well will American Idol do? It's no secret that the show struggled a lot last season, posting its lowest ratings since the first season and lowest finale ever last May. Fox knew they had to make some changes to revitalize, and change they did. I tuned in last night (as an amateur singer I've watched on and off for 5-6 years) to see what changes they made. Here's what I noticed - some new stuff and some new old stuff:

The old script-y logo is back with an roman numeral 13 at the bottom - perhaps hearkening to the legacy and staying power of the show? Of course, old judge JLo is back along with last season's Keith Urban and new judge Harry Connick, Jr. and my interpretation is the chemistry between these judges is much better and much more watchable than last season. Not to mention Connick adds some great musical knowlegdge to the panel.

Overall they seem to have upped the game with graphics and camera work - lots of split screens making good use of the fact that most viewers are watching in large HD screens now. Also new are large ticket-sized golden tickets for contestants that get through to Hollywood. Another newby element is something they've branding "The Chamber" complete with hashtag - basically a metallic holding cell for contestants before they enter the room to compete. Not sure what purpose it serves and seems to be a poor attempt at adding a social media element to the show. 

One other new social media element that I thought worked was twitter hashtag voting/polling. Before one commercial break they showed a clip of an audition and asked the audience if she would get through or not, inviting them to vote via hashtag. The results were displayed right after the commercial break. They introduced this last year, but not during the auditions. It encourages live viewing, and thus live viewing of advertisements - and represents social viewing done right.

Other noticeable changes were no mention of Randy Jackson at all (although he was reportedly going to be a mentor judge) and there seemed to be less Ryan Seacrest. He wasn't part of the first 15 minutes or so of the show at all. Not sure if the reasoning there is to make it less about him due to audience not liking him; or if he's distancing himself because it harmed his own multi-media brand last year and he's prepping for an exit.

Talent-wise you could tell there was a strategic focus more on the talent and less about the goofy guys (although they were a few still there). And some of the folks that were kicked off were still pretty good. There's no doubt that this is due to The Voice's influence in this field of singing competitions.

Overall I felt the revamps worked, especially compared to last season. But will these changes be enough to give it a second wind? Well if the national "overnight" ratings from last night's premiere are any indication, not quite yet. But Fox still won the night. I think it will take some time to build the audience back up and for it to be buzzworthy again; but they are back on the right track.

What do you think? Are you a fan? Did you watch? Would you advertise in the American Idol this season? Leave a comment and let us know

And since we were so far off with our fall TV predictions, especially with cancellations, we'll keep any other mid-season predictions to ourselves for now. Thanks for reading!

McCulloch+Company is an advertising media services company that integrates the innovation of digital media with the strengths of traditional paths. Founded in 1984 and located in historic Roswell, Georgia, McCulloch+Company is regarded as one of the Southeast's preeminent media agencies. The agency is skilled at managing B2B and B2C clients in a multitude of industry categories. Click here to contact us for a free media plan evaluation.


Topics: TV media buying, Nielsen ratings, top Atlanta media buying advertising agency, spot tv buying, American Idol, JLo

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