After Abdul, "Idol" will still ad up

Wed Aug 5, 2009 11:10pm EDT
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By Alex Ben Block and James Hibberd

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - While her fans might be upset, advertisers don't expect Paula Abdul's exit as an "American Idol" judge to have any significant impact on ad sales or audience ratings for the top-rated Fox show.

"To me, that show is appointment TV, and a lot of it is driven by the contestants and how compelling they are," said Shari Cohen, executive director of Mindshare in New York, which buys TV ad time for national advertisers.

"I think the judges offer a layer of intrigue and allure, but it's really very much about how compelling are the contestants and does that draw viewers in."

Tom Weeks, senior vp and director at Starcom Entertainment in Chicago, agreed. "It will have an impact in terms of how people connect to it, but I still feel it's a juggernaut and will continue to be a top-rated show," he said.

Weeks believes Abdul must have a plan to walk away from a salary reported to be $4 million last season and an offer that Fox network insiders said was a 30% increase. Abdul reportedly had sought a $20 million salary and more recently had reduced that to $12 million, still more than twice what Fox and producers Fremantle and 19 Entertainment were said to be offering.

Abdul was represented by her recently appointed manager, David Sonenberg of New York-based DAS Communications. Sonenberg had upset the network and producers late last month when he went public in an interview with the Los Angeles Times about the lack of an offer by Fox only weeks before the new season auditions were scheduled to begin. They start Friday in Denver.

Abdul threw the producers a curve Tuesday evening when she chose to reveal that she was ending negotiations with a Twitter message: "With sadness in my heart, I've decided not to return to 'Idol,'" she tweeted.

Sources close to 19 say it was blindsided by her decision to break off talks with a public statement. A network spokesman called it unlikely that Abdul was just using this as a negotiating ploy.   Continued...

<p>Actress Paula Abdul arrives to attend the 35th annual FiFi awards to honor the fragrance industry's creative achievements in New York in this file photo from May 31, 2007. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson</p>