Will New Judges Lend 'Idol' a Boost?

Advertisers Will Watch to See if Show Is Still Worth $485,000 per 30-Second Ad

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- "American Idol" finally got J. Lo. The question now is, will massive TV audiences get "American Idol"?

'American Idol' judges (from l.) Randy Jackson, Jennifer Lopez, Steven Tyler and host Ryan Seacrest.
'American Idol' judges (from l.) Randy Jackson, Jennifer Lopez, Steven Tyler and host Ryan Seacrest. Credit: Fox
Fox ended weeks of speculation today by confirming it had hired both Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler and actress/singer Jennifer Lopez as judges for the 10th season of "American Idol," joining veteran judge Randy Jackson. Ms. Lopez's arrival comes as part of a broader deal, with terms that give her production company a "first-look" agreement with News Corp.'s movie studio, 20th Century Fox, and its Fox broadcast network.

Now that the company has ended guesswork about who might appear on its flagship program next year, it will have to push forward to end the discussion about "Idol's" overall health. The show's finale last season was its lowest-rated in recent years. Overall viewership last season was off around 8%, and ratings among the demographic advertisers covet -- people between 18- and 49-years-old -- were off about 9%.

Even Fox executives have acknowledged the need to maintain the show's drawing power, and advertisers may be watching to see if they can buy commercial time on the program for a lesser sum than in years past. During the 2009-2010 season, a 30-second spot on "Idol" came in at around $485,000, excluding premieres and finales.

"Idol's" continued success is instrumental to Fox's long-term plans. Executives have in past months discussed the notion of maintaining a more robust year-round program schedule. The network has taken pains in recent years to bolster its fall season, when its broadcast of the World Series has blunted the launches of some of its new shows. Pairing a maturing "Idol" with "X Factor," a new musical talent show from Simon Cowell slated to debut on Fox in the fall of 2011, could give the network two tent poles -- albeit one that's sagging -- around which to anchor advertiser interest.

The new judges are meant to add some life and buzz to the proceedings. In addition to the Aerosmith frontman and the actress, Fox said record producer Jimmy Iovine, chairman of Interscope Geffen A&M Records, will join the program as "an in-house mentor." During the season, "Idol" will show behind-the-scenes vignettes depicting Mr. Iovine working with contestants.

The decisions are likely to spark debate among "Idol's" hardcore fans, who argue endlessly over any move that tinkers with the show's format

"I am looking forward to this next season; we are going to knock it out of the park," Mr. Jackson said in a statement. "Season 10 is going to be hot!" But advertisers will likely wait to see next year's ratings before agreeing with his assessment.

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