American Idol is costing too much

I said a few weeks ago in this column that reality shows are fizzling out now that the competitions are no longer about finding a star so much as they are making current stars richer. I noted how Britney Spears was (at one time) the highest-paid reality judge with her brief time on The X Factor.

It was mid-February when I wrote this about The X Factor’s cancellation: “So when you look at the production costs of the show – not including the judges’ salaries, the prize money, etc. – it wasn’t worth it to continue with the program. And it begs the question that I have been asking for years: Is this the end of the talent competition shows?”

Now, a shocking revelation that powerhouse American Idol is actually losing money this season thanks in part to, yup, salaries of the judges.

I should point out that Fox hasn’t commented about its costly show but sources are saying that with returning judge Jennifer Lopez getting $15 million this season and host Ryan Seacrest reportedly getting roughly the same amount – I don’t need to do the math for you – but that’s $30 million just for two people. Adding in the new set that cost upwards of $5 million attempting to give the stale show a fresh new look, you’re not coming out ahead at all.

This is quite a change since about 10 years ago Idol was the dominating show on TV and over its run has pulled in billions of dollars. But, like I said in the column a couple weeks ago, the winners of the shows aren’t even pulling in album sales close to these figures so it really is a lose-lose for TV networks if the show is no longer a hit AND the winner is really a loser.

Despite ratings continually slipping, Idol has been watched by enough people that even with the dwindling numbers it is still doing better than most shows on TV. And with the cancellation of Idol copycat, The X Factor, it looks like there might be more attention put on Fox’s first reality hit as the network continues to try breathe new life into American Idol.

In the end, it’s, well, the beginning of the end for Idol. As an entertainment reporter I love seeing how long they will string a show along before they finally put it out of its misery.

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