"American Idol" will be the most expensive and sought-after season-ender, and could even top the 29.4 million viewers glued to the tube to see last season's big finish. But that sound you hear drowning out the carping about the death of the 30-second spot isn't just the cash register ringing at Fox, but also at some other major TV networks primed to rake in some big bucks from big-time season sendoffs.
Among them: ABC's "Desperate Housewives," "Grey's Anatomy" and "Lost," in addition to the final curtain call for NBC's much-loved "Will & Grace" and long-running "The West Wing."
"They're all set up for big finales," said John Rash, director-broadcast negotiations, Campbell Mithun, Minneapolis. Yet the "Idol" chatter is the loudest. "The 'American Idol' finale is perfectly poised to cap off the May sweeps for Fox," said Mr. Rash. "There's nothing [else] that will absolutely stop the nation in its tracks."
Last year's top show
While everybody loved "Raymond" last year to the tune of $1.22 million per 30-second spot for the finale, "Idol," which last season eked in just under "Raymond" at $1.19 million per spot, is the highest-priced this year.
The singing shootout will cost more than double the average unit price in "Idol," which is $496,866 for the Tuesday edition and $518,466 for the Wednesday results show, according to Advertising Age research conducted at the start of the season. Fox declined to comment on pricing.
Of course, as always, different marketers are paying a variety of prices for the hotly anticipated finale, which is scheduled for Wednesday, May 24. Some agencies claimed to have deals that would bring the price of a spot closer to $600,000 to $700,000. And even at the top price, "Idol" still falls well below the biggest curtain drop in recent TV history, the "Friends" finale in 2004, at $2 million.
'Desperate Housewives,' 'Grey's Anatomy'
Other season-enders are expected to reap high ratings and prices. "ABC also has the ability to deliver a one, two punch with the 'Desperate Housewives' and 'Grey's Anatomy's' cliffhangers alone, let alone 'Lost,"' said Mr. Rash.
NBC's "Will & Grace," he said, "is still a seminal sitcom beloved by millions who will most likely revisit its last episode." Indeed, NBC is counting down the days to the May 18 finale of the 8-year-old sitcom on its Web site. Fans will also say goodbye to Sunday night White House drama "The West Wing," which is playing out the aftermath of the election of Matt Santos (played by Jimmy Smits) as president. That series finale is May 14.
ABC's "Alias" departs on Monday, May 22 and the WB's decade-old "Seventh Heaven," the longest-running family drama, is also headed for the graveyard.
~ ~ ~
'Idol' vs. 'Raymond'
29.4 million: "Idol" finale viewers in 2005.
$1.3 million: Estimated "Idol" finale 30-second spot cost 2006.
32.9 million: "Raymond" finale viewers in 2005.
$1.22 million: "Raymond" 30-second spot cost 2005.