AT&T is bowing out "American Idol" after sponsoring Fox's singing competition for the past 12 years.
Ford and Coca-Cola, which have also been sponsors of the show since it began, will return. But AT&T's drop-out is yet another sign of the dissipating power of "Idol," whose ratings have fallen as the franchise aged. AT&T's withdrawal was first reported by Variety.
"We've been proud to be a part of this groundbreaking TV series for the past 12 years," a spokesman for AT&T said in an email. "We wish our friends at American Idol continued success."
In an effort to revive the aging franchise, "American Idol" bows for its 13th season tonight with a new set of judges and new production team.
Last season's finale of "American Idol" drew just 14.3 million viewers, the first time an "Idol" finale did not reach the 20 million mark since the show first aired in 2002. And NBC's "The Voice" has arguably surpassed the show for pop-culture traction and buzz. But it remains a strong property for advertisers.
Many marketers are still willing to shell out a significant chunk of change to be in "Idol," with the series commanding an average of about $356,000 for a 30-second spot this season, according to Ad Age's annual pricing survey. That's down from more than $500,000 at the show's height, but still more than anything else on broadcast but football.
Ford will continue to incorporate its cars into weekly Thursday night segments and will also introduce an online promotion that gives fans a chance to win a prize pack. Coca-Cola's signature cup will also return to the judges' table, with Diet Coke and Coca-Cola Zero cups also set to make appearances throughout the season.