"American Idol" to dominate strike-hit U.S. TV

Mon Jan 14, 2008 9:42pm EST
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By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - U.S. television's top show, "American Idol," returns to the Fox network on Tuesday, poised to stand taller than ever in the ratings as it arrives in a prime-time landscape clouded by the Hollywood writers strike.

Anticipating another blockbuster season for the TV talent competition, advertisers already have ponied up banner prices for the seventh round of "Idol," making it again the most lucrative regularly scheduled series in prime time.

Generally airing twice weekly, the show averaged over 30 million viewers per episode last season.

Months before the writers strike began, a 30-second commercial for the 2008 season of "Idol" was going for roughly $750,000, with the price jumping to at least $900,000 for the same ad sold in the "scatter market" just before the show's return, according to media buyers familiar with the deals.

Both figures are up sharply from ad rates fetched for last year's installment of the show, which features amateur singers from around the United States vying for fame and a recording contract.

But they pale in comparison to the rates commanded for a 30-second commercial on Fox's upcoming February 3 broadcast of the National Football League's Super Bowl championship, which sources put as high as $3 million per spot.

The advertising value of "American Idol," the most watched U.S. series for the past four years, has only been enhanced by the ratings declines faced by Fox's network rivals in a environment weakened by the writers strike.

Even before the Writers Guild of America launched its walkout against film and TV studios on November 5, prime-time ratings for the major networks across the board were down about 10 percent from the same period in 2006.   Continued...

<p>Simon Cowell, one of the judges, poses as he arrives for the finale of the television reality series "American Idol" in Hollywood, California in this file photo from May 23, 2007. REUTERS/Fred Prouser</p>