Another Big Loss for 'American Idol' Judges Table: Coca-Cola

Coca-Cola Is Ending Its 13-Year Sponsorship of the Show

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A standard sight for years: Coca-Cola in front of judges on 'American Idol.'
A standard sight for years: Coca-Cola in front of judges on 'American Idol.' Credit: Fox

The "American Idol" judges table will be losing a long-time occupant -- Coca-Cola's big, red beverage cups.

The soft drink giant is ending its sponsorship with the Fox singing competition, the companies said today. The news was reported earlier by Variety.

"Coca-Cola and Fox have mutually decided to end their 13-year 'American Idol' partnership," the companies said in a joint statement. "We look forward to working together on new collaborations in the future."

Red Coca-Cola cups have been a staple in front of "Idol" judges since the show debuted in June 2002. The green room was also branded by Coke as a "red room."

The reality singing competition has been credited with helping Coca-Cola boost its market share over rival PepsiCo, which famously passed on sponsoring "Idol" in its first season. Coca-Cola initially paid less than $10 million to sponsor "Idol" in its first season.

But "American Idol" has lost its cache in recent years as ratings declined precipitously. Its most recent season finale averaged 10.1 million viewers, down 27% from the season prior. In its heyday, "Idol" regularly attracted an average of 30 million viewers. Its most-watched finale, the season 2 showdown between Clay Aiken and Ruben Studdard, brought in 38 million people.

Fox is now cutting back on the number of hours it airs the show. "American Idol" will start the season on Jan. 7 airing two nights a week, then eventually go to a single weekly episode that includes both performances and results.

On average, advertisers are paying around $225,000 to $250,000 for a 30-second spot in the show, with some agencies noting some clients are still paying more than $300,000. While this still makes "Idol" one of the costliest shows to advertise in, it's a far cry from the $500,000 or so advertisers spent in 2011.

Coca-Cola's decision comes as it to make a $250 million-to-$350 million increase in media investment globally next year, as Chief Financial Officer Kathy Waller outlined on Monday during a call with analysts. In North America, spending decisions will be driven by a new team of executives, including Emmanuel Seugue, who on Jan. 1 will move from a global role to become senior VP-content in North America. He will report to Wendy Clark, who on June 1 became president-sparkling and strategic marketing in North America, after a global stint.

When Ms. Clark announced Mr. Seuge's appointment in November, she made a point of saying that music content is "the most watched form of all online content," and that Mr. Seuge would be charged with helping to "harness" the growing role of content.

Last season, "American Idol" also lost AT&T as a sponsor following a 12-year stint. But Ford will return as a sponsor for season 14, a Fox spokeswoman confirmed.

Contributing: E.J. Schultz

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