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.
In a statement late Tuesday, Fox, Fremantle and 19 said: “Abdul has been an important part of the ‘American Idol’ family over the last eight seasons, and we are saddened that she has decided not to return to the show.”
NBC on Wednesday denied reports Abdul would join “America’s Got Talent” as a judge. Fox denied that she was invited to be a judge on “So You Think You Can Dance.” And an ABC rep said she had not been approached about being a judge on “Dancing With the Stars” or any other program.
However, Paul Telegdy, who heads unscripted programing at NBC, did say he thought it was a mistake for Fox to let her go and that she was a major reason fans watched the show. The way Abdul announced her decision added to her reputation for erratic behavior, which over the years has included charges that she had an inappropriate relationship with a contestant, was a substance abuser and had mental issues. Abdul has denied all those charges.
Fox recently confirmed that the fourth judge added last season, Kara DioGuardi, has been re-signed. Judges Randy Jackson and Simon Cowell are under contract for the coming season, which begins in January .
Abdul has outside business interests, but it is unclear how they will proceed once she loses the “Idol” platform. She sells jewelry on HSN and QVC, recently launched a perfume called Sexy Thoughts and endorses a fitness company. She also has released songs and done music videos in the recent past but without the level of success she enjoyed early in her career.
“Much like Paris Hilton, there could be perceptions about her business savvy,” Weeks said. “But I think Paula will be one of those entertainers who, if she plays her cards right, will always have a place in people’s hearts.”
(Editing by DGoodman at Reuters)
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