Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Why is “American Idol” Better than “Dancing with the Stars”?





I have never seen a single episode of “Dancing with the Stars”, while I have been a faithful viewer of “American Idol” for years, so I’m certainly not qualified to discuss which is the better show. But a fascinating article in today’s New York Times business section explained why, even though DWTS was crowing last week about having more viewers (23 million!) than American Idol (21.8 million), advertisers still have to pay three times as much ($642,000) for a 30- second commercial on “Idol” compared to $209,000 for a commercial on “DWTS”

Why? Because “Dancing” appeals to women viewers over 50 years old (that’s us crones) and “Idol” appeals to young women.

According to the NYTimes, “When a show has a disproportionate number of women over 50 in its audience, it simply cannot charge as much for commercials. That is not because advertisers do not like older women, but because they are so easy to find all over the rest of television.”

One media seller noted that “it might seem odd that advertisers tend to devalue the audience that has the most money—that is older viewers, but the scarcity argument tends to rule: advertisers pay more to reach people who do not watch much television. Thus the most prized viewers of all watch the least amount of television: men under 35. The younger women who watch ‘Idol’ are also highly valuable to certain advertisers”…like sellers of soft drinks, beer and gadgets like computers and phones.

Right now I can hear my friends saying, “Why on earth would a person like yourself, a pseudo-intellectual with a master’s degree in journalism, BA in English literature, Phi Beta Kappa key, watch a show like “American Idol”? And why don’t you watch “Dancing with the Stars”?

It’s hard to explain, but I try to find some TV show every night for one or two hours from eight to ten that I can watch while pedaling my stationary bike for exercise – a show that will distract me from how much I hate exercising and it won’t matter if I miss some of the dialogue due to the noise of the bike. So “Idol” fits the bill, and so do re-runs of “Bones”, “House” and “Medium”. (I can’t make myself watch “ER” any more.)

Aside from the nightly hours on the bike, I don’t watch TV unless I turn it on for “The Good Wife”, “Medium” “Big Love”, “Madmen” or “Glee” (my current fave—can’t wait for next week when it starts again.) I used to watch “Lost” but became hopelessly out of the loop long ago.

I have no desire to watch “Dancing with the Stars” because it seems to me that it features has-been celebrities and people who are famous just for being famous –like Kate Gosselin—doing something they’re not very good at.

“Idol” on the other hand, features real people (most of them) with real background stories who are hoping to relive the Cinderella fairy tale and catch the brass ring. (Okay, I don’t like the way they hype the sob stories in the contestants’ past or the way, in the auditions, they exploit troubled, often mentally fragile bad singers. But I think they’re soft-pedaling that because so many felt the way I do. Uncomfortable.)

I also like the way the producers of “Idol” pretend that the contestants , backstage, are all a multi-colored, loving family supporting each other. I believe that other reality shows, in contrast, encourage in-fighting and bad behavior to drive up viewer numbers. And those “reality” shows only are encouraging rudeness, confrontation and horrible behavior in all the impressionable young people (and old people) who watch things like “Jersey Shore” (not that I’ve ever seen that one either.)

I believe I read somewhere that the Obamas watch “American Idol” with their girls – it’s a good family show – but that conflicts with what I read somewhere else – that the Obamas don’t let the girls watch ANY television on weekdays.

My own kids—all three in their thirties, run for the door when I try to bring up my favorites on American Idol. Over Easter weekend one daughter said, while begging me to drop the subject, “They say Idol is for everyone from nine to ninety, but I think the only people who watch it are either nine or ninety.”

So who are you rooting for – Crystal Bowersox? Siobhan is my favorite at the moment, and I’m predicting that Andrew Garcia gets sent home tonight. But I never guess that right. My husband always does, and he’s predicting Garcia too.

1 comment:

Andy said...

I've only seen about 1/3 of an episode of Idol, and I've never seen DWTS but I agree with all your points-- it's an excellent argument.

Were I a Nielson Viewer, PAWNSTARS and NO RESERVATIONS would be the top two shows on TV.
Demographically speaking, I'm probably the only straight under 40 guy watching Project Runway each week too.