A big crowd. Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson, Kara DioGuardi and Ellen DeGeneres. The usual crew minus the mercurial Paula Abdul.
Shake up! Randy remains but he's joined by Aerosmith lead singer Steven Tyler and flailing diva Jennifer Lopez. Mr. Tyler and Ms. Lopez are both looking for some wind beneath their wings after suffering a few career hiccups.
These figures are off from "Idol's" best performance. In its fifth season, in 2006, the show snared nearly 30.8 million total viewers on a live-plus-seven-day basis and 16.4 million viewers between the ages of 18 and 49. The lowest-rated season of "American Idol" was its first: Just 12.7 million watched then, and of those, nearly 8 million were between the ages of 18 and 49.
This season: Shifting airtime to Wednesday and Thursday could be the shot in the arm -- or nail in the coffin. Stay tuned.
What the media buyers say
"It's still a valuable property." -- Barbara DiMaria, senior VP-director of national broadcast at Ingenuity Media, the media arm of Interpublic Group of Cos.' Martin Agency.
Marketers still want to be involved with the show, but "Simon is a virtually irreplaceable asset to the series." -- Kris Magel, exec VP-director of national broadcast at Interpublic Group of Cos.' Initiative.
"Last season, 'The Winter Olympics' and later 'Dancing with the Stars' beat out 'American Idol' in head-to-head competition, the first time any program had done that since 2004. " -- Brad Adgate, senior VP-research, Horizon Media
Prior to last season's launch, Fox felt the show "had begun to feel very slick," said Joe Earley, Fox's president-marketing and communications. So "we really focused on grounding the campaign" with ads and promos displaying such figures as a girl singing in her bedroom or a busker singing in the subway. The slogan: "They all start somewhere."
This year, the campaign has evolved. Fox still wants to keep the focus on the homegrown nature of the "Idol" contestants, but also highlight the new judges, who have backstories of their own. The tagline: "Every superstar begins with a dream," which can apply to contestants and to the new judges, said Mr. Earley. Fox has sent a 22-minute show for affiliates to run in which previous contestants are interviewed in their hometowns. Mr. Earley said the special has run in about 90% of the country, and multiple times on certain stations.
Last season, as always, Coca-Cola, Ford Motor and AT&T were "Idol's" three main sponsors.
This season, an announcement is expected in the days to come stating all three will return.