May 6th, 2010
10:53 AM ET

'American Idol' TV's biggest money maker

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“American Idol” may be a little shaky in the ratings these days, but they are still making lots of money for its parent network, Fox.

According to a Forbes story, the show is the biggest money maker on television in terms of advertising dollars.  Forbes estimates that in 2009 “Idol” generated $32.4 million for a two-hour episode, or $8.1 million per 30 minutes.

The report points out that ad purchases are made before the season begins and are therefore based on past performances and anticipated buzz.

And even thought “Idol” has been beaten a few times in the ratings game this season by ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars,” it still pulls in an average 25 million viewers to whom advertisers are anxious to showcase their products.

Coming in second place, Forbes said, is CBS’ “Two and a Half Men” which generated an estimated $3.1 million, on average, per half-hour show.

Interestingly, “Idol” and “Two and a Half Men” have something in common as both are facing the loss of their leading men. Simon Cowell is scheduled to leave “Idol” after this season and “Two and a Half Men” star Charlie Sheen is reportedly considering not returning when his contract concludes at the end of this season.

soundoff (48 Responses)
  1. mainehunter

    Get rid of Kara and bring back Siobhan

    May 9, 2010 at 10:17 am | Report abuse |
  2. JD

    When your favorite doesn't win, it's the end of the world...the show is dead!! We all heard that the year Hicks won over Daughtry I think the point of this story is yes, viewers are down, but it still has the most of ANY show on TV (gosh, it's 9 years old!)
    I work parttime at a school of over 1,000 teens. I have asked about "Two and a Half Men"...not one person admits they watch it. Who is watching that show?? I always see it listed as 2nd most popular on By the way, many teens will admit that AI is their guilty pleasure..even if it's not cool.

    May 7, 2010 at 2:00 pm | Report abuse |
  3. moon627

    I will probably continue to watch the show in the future (if it has one) but i probably wont be tuning in regularly like i do now mostly because i enjoy Simon's comments and when he's gone there wont be much point since i have no patience for the other judges.

    I dont know who will replace Simon but i dont care for many of the suggestions out there – like Harry Connick for example – i wouldnt watch him – and certainly not Howard Stern. But I would tune in for Elton John or Gene Simmons or someone else who is sassy or has a bit of sarcasm because it gets boring listening to wishy washy wimpy judges.

    And unless there are some fantastically original contestants singing then it will just be the same old thing and its been done to death now.

    May 7, 2010 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Pat

    Hello CNN? Advertising fees are decided/paid in advance. The question is will more people stop watching eclipse new viewers? And sponsers will drop off. Probably, hardly anybody I work with watches Idol anymore & I stopped last week because of the crime of booting Siobhan. I'll save watching until the finale when it will be between Chrystal & Lee. Siobhan & Chrystal would have been a better, more dramatic finale. But wait, Idol might have another upseting twist of fate in the finale, like season 2 & season 8. That's why I'll tune in for that show only.

    May 7, 2010 at 11:18 am | Report abuse |
  5. defabz

    Harry Connick, Jr. as the replacement judge next year? That is a fantastic idea! I do not know if he would be interested, but he would provide the needed musical skills, the willingness to be truthful, and also a much needed humor and goodwill.

    May 7, 2010 at 8:14 am | Report abuse |
  6. Roger

    I just cannot wait for Crystal Boyersox's CD to come out..WOW ...what a outstanding singer this girl has.....Love her voice ...she can sing anything .....

    May 7, 2010 at 7:17 am | Report abuse |
  7. Lee

    I think Idol is a great concept. It is a place where people who can sing can get a chance at a record deal. I think it's hard to break into that field even if you have talent.

    Let's think about it 1000's of recording Artist only 100's of good recording artist. We are too quick to forget about what the show is about. It's about producing recording artist.

    Anyway I'm rooting for Michael Lynche because he's got something about him kinda reminds me of a baby luther vandross.

    I also like Crystal when she sang that song from Gladys Night WOW. Lee has learned alot since he started and we the people are the ones that benefit from that. But Im just saying....

    May 7, 2010 at 4:13 am | Report abuse |
  8. AEvangelista

    The show was cast for radio rather than TV. Krimon has been acting like a narrow-minded A&R department. Text voting is out of control. Cutie voting now rules.

    May 7, 2010 at 3:07 am | Report abuse |
  9. Maggie

    How does "Two and a Half Men" make so much money? I don't know anyone who watches that.

    May 7, 2010 at 12:33 am | Report abuse |
  10. debbie1433

    Has anyone read 'Three Cups of Tea' ?

    May 6, 2010 at 9:15 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Chris

    The Lambert thing hurt them, whether they want to admit it. This show kicks off the most interesting and/or best contestant every year.

    The fact that they kicked the weird chick who could occasionally sing and screamed a lot off a couple weeks ago, this year, ensures that their ratings are only gonna plummet farther. She was the only thing generating any interest.

    Kicking off Paula Abdul was also stupid. Replacing her with the useless chick who parrots everything Simon says and constantly hits on people isn't helping.

    With Simon gone next year this show's dead.

    May 6, 2010 at 7:26 pm | Report abuse |
  12. ctexas

    American Idol comes on at 8pm my time stop bashing the grandparents. Lady GaGA does not have any respect for herself or those who watch her. So you need to turn the station or use your DVR and fast forward so you dont have to see the weird stuff. Not sure if my family will watch it next year. It's just like anything else on TV. It gets old after a while and then it's time to pull the plug.

    May 6, 2010 at 6:30 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Rob - Australia

    The funny thing about "The show is dying" comments, is all the moaners that are still watching it.

    Lambert lost las year because he didn't get the votes. That's how it works folks!!

    This is a tough year, they all are. Now there's the top 4, we need to get rid of Vanilla Mike and let Casey, Lee and Chrystal sing it out for the finals.

    Besides, commercial success happens to a lot of the runners up, so stop crying about Lambert, who's doing OK..


    May 6, 2010 at 6:12 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Grumpy

    Worst.... Season.... Ever !

    May 6, 2010 at 5:55 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Big fan!!!!!!!

    Simone, Brandy, Allen, Klara and Bryan are the best! Love you all.

    May 6, 2010 at 5:12 pm | Report abuse |
  16. carole

    Great show, been watching it for 7 seasons.
    Love Ryan Seacrest, Simon is mean. Randy is cool, Ellen too!
    I think Dewyze will take it, even tho Crystal is fantastic. Casey was eye-candy. Loved Aaron Kelly, he was way beyond his young years with that voice and very professional in his departure. I wish him well.

    May 6, 2010 at 4:49 pm | Report abuse |
  17. cwhirlygrl

    I'm with you ubee- well said

    May 6, 2010 at 4:36 pm | Report abuse |
  18. ubee

    Okay let's just finally put the truth out there American Idol just plain sucks. The judges are sleeping at the wheel on talent. They have not picked good talent since Jennifer Hudson (Won an Oscar hello) and Carrie Underwood Fantastic-this was talent and Jennifer was voted off-tells you that the viewers can't pick talent either .Those little girls kept that Sanjia or whatever his name was on for weeks HE COULD NOT SING. and for the person who said something about the big Black guy who won His name is Rueben Studdard and he just released another CD-Thank You. This show needs to follow the lead of Sunday Best talk about some talent and some people who can sing honey please..........real talent .Ellen can't act or sing her way out of a paper bag. I hope this disaster isoff the air soon.Let's replace it with a Tuesday good movie......that a family can watch even a 3 year old. I am so sick of reality I could throw up. I don't think Hollywood has had an original ideal in the last 10 years. Why don't we all turn off the TV and read a book?

    May 6, 2010 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
  19. TJ

    Off course the producers will not stop you from voting more than once. They make millions just on the telephone voting system alone. The more you vote, the more they make. That is without advertisments.

    May 6, 2010 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |
  20. Dott

    Where is my post?

    May 6, 2010 at 4:10 pm | Report abuse |
  21. klm

    u ppl r just mean if they want to let thier 3 year old stay up and watch it who r u to tell them wat they shouldent do wat they let thier grandkid is non of your businees wait and have one of your own then u can do wat ever u think is right untill then Shut up

    May 6, 2010 at 3:50 pm | Report abuse |
  22. Portia Rossi

    I miss Paula soo much 🙂 S he was such a great judge 🙂 Get rid of Ellen beacuse ellen is not a good judge at all ! Paula is my girl and I miss her soo much 🙂

    May 6, 2010 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
  23. Marg

    No we do not need Paula back. Don't need Ellen. Kara won't shut up
    After Simon leaves nothing remains. to watch.

    May 6, 2010 at 3:00 pm | Report abuse |
  24. AI

    Have you ever considered before being overly critical of the grandparents that maybe they live in a different time zone? This may allow them to watch the show earlier than for you.

    May 6, 2010 at 2:14 pm | Report abuse |
  25. Victor

    Since Harry Connick Jr. "judged" both the "Idol" judges and contestants earlier this week, why not make him as Simon Cowell's replacement on next season's "Idol?" Don't pick Howard Stern, please.

    May 6, 2010 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
  26. Diane

    Casey should have been voted off, may been easy on the eyes but no voice to match.

    May 6, 2010 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
  27. Mary

    1. Too much time is spent on the auditions. Too many crappy singers are shown. The season is half over by the time I start watching.

    2. Simon leaving will be the end of the show, anyway.

    3. Get rid of Ellen and Kara and get Paula back somehow.

    4. 1 vote per person – it would be a much more realisic count of votes

    May 6, 2010 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse |
  28. dj

    Ok, Simon is leaving at the end of the season and so is Charlie let's replace Simon with Charlie. That would be a good laugh huh?

    May 6, 2010 at 1:10 pm | Report abuse |
  29. carolyn

    I think Adam put the nail in the coffin for AI. He has more talent in his makeup than all of the contestants this year. He set the bar sooooooo high..they can't compete.

    Big Fan of Adam!!!!!!!

    May 6, 2010 at 1:10 pm | Report abuse |
  30. Susie

    Totally agree that Adam should have won last year. I think what needs to be changed is the voting system. There should only be one vote allowed per phone. Last year, I tried an experiment and kept using redial to vote.
    I was actually able to vote 29 times for one person! When Ryan announces that 35 million people voted last night, it can't be true. I think this system is not representative of America, because most older people are going to just pick up the phone and vote once whereas a teenie bopper could text 30 votes.

    May 6, 2010 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
  31. Dave

    Replace Ellen with Ozzy Osbourne.

    May 6, 2010 at 12:56 pm | Report abuse |
  32. Erik

    This show has been painful, and of course its a cash cow jesus christ they show 45 minutes of commercials and about 15 minutes of content. Thank god for a dvr otherwise my family was done watching and without simon to at least tell the turds that they are turds I know we are done.

    May 6, 2010 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse |
  33. Oash

    yeah they have had a good history but this show is about to become history. this season sucks!

    May 6, 2010 at 12:52 pm | Report abuse |
  34. suzy diamond

    WHAT in the WORLD is a 3yr.old doing up at that hour PLUS being allowed to watch Lady GaGa!!!! With Grandparents like that who needs enemies. American Idol is NOT always for kids. Parental Discretion is needed...hellooooooo

    May 6, 2010 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
  35. Jeff Dwyer

    All the buzz about Idol slipping in ratings is BS. It is down a little but still doing far better than most shows, especially those that have been on-air for none years. Some bloggers says that this year's show is boring. They have forgotten the snoozing we all had when Bucky Covington, Taylor Hicks, Elliot Yamin were singing.

    May 6, 2010 at 12:42 pm | Report abuse |
  36. suzy diamond

    May not be the biggest cash cow for long. Read some articles on line and they are having the lowest ratings ever since the show began. Much of the blame in on Ryan Seacrest. Fans are NOT happy with his combative nature towards Simon, his arrogance, his comments in general. I fear when Simon leaves the show it will REALLY bit the dust for sure!

    May 6, 2010 at 12:41 pm | Report abuse |
  37. JHK3

    This show has been dying for years now, but Fox would never pull the plug with all that money on the table. Instead we see the same recycled b.s. night after night after night....

    May 6, 2010 at 12:36 pm | Report abuse |
  38. kat

    cece i agree with you and Penny Baer I disagree with you totally because if that was the case AI should have been gone second year when the big black guy (cant even remember his name) won!!

    May 6, 2010 at 12:34 pm | Report abuse |
  39. A Responsible Grand Parent

    A responsible grandparent would not have a three year old up to 10:00pm on a Wednesday night to watch Lady GaGa

    May 6, 2010 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
  40. cece

    Get rid of Ellen and bring Paula back

    May 6, 2010 at 12:27 pm | Report abuse |
  41. tom

    I agree: Yawn

    May 6, 2010 at 12:11 pm | Report abuse |
  42. Randy Walker

    My wife and I enjoy watching the show but the performance and outfits worn by Lady Gaga were awful and very distasteful. My 3 year old granddaughter enjoys watching and I would not want her to see such a distasteful performance.

    May 6, 2010 at 12:06 pm | Report abuse |
  43. Cheryl

    I think just the opposite ! Kris deserved to be the winner ! But, he did it totally without the help or support of the judges, who predicted Adam from the get go. Kris represents all the qualities of an AMERICAN Idol. Wouldn't Adam be a great role model for our children (haha). The best person won, get over it !!!!!

    May 6, 2010 at 12:03 pm | Report abuse |
  44. tina

    Who was kicked off this week

    May 6, 2010 at 12:02 pm | Report abuse |
  45. marcia


    May 6, 2010 at 11:58 am | Report abuse |
  46. Donna Thompson

    I totally agree that last year's Idol should have been Adam Lambert. I have bought his album, but I would not consider buying an album of Chris as he is just not entertainment...This year's Idol is not half as good as last year's talent...but that happens. I will miss Simon as he is Idol's touch of color.

    May 6, 2010 at 11:58 am | Report abuse |

    I think that American Idol lost viewers after last season making Chris the winner last year over Adam who was clearly the better singer/performer. Most people did not believe they pay attention to the votes after that debacle!

    May 6, 2010 at 11:17 am | Report abuse |
  48. Michael

    This does not surprise me at all. Even though this season hasn't been as dynamic as ones past, the suspense and live nature of the program make for event watching each week – and live means people don't tune out during commercials as much as they would with DVR. Last night's episode was no exception – and these final four are about as good as this season could produce – which may be why ratings are shaky in the first place.

    May 6, 2010 at 11:11 am | Report abuse |

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