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"American Idol" — Cook-ed by TXT Messages

Even if, like me, you don’t much care about David Cook, you have to hand it to the hit FOX reality series: It’s putting SMS systems to maximum use, turning them into a giant cash machine. AT&T says the most recent season of “American Idol” show generated 78 million text messages — up from 67 million last season. And an informal poll conducted by the company on its web site reveals that 51 percent of the 416 respondents tended to text more frequently during the “American Idol” season than other times of the year. Another twenty-two percent said they first learned to text message by voting for their favorite “Idol” contestant. Now only if Ma Bell could tell us how much money they are really raking from this tie-up with the talent-based reality show.

16 Responses to “"American Idol" — Cook-ed by TXT Messages”

  1. kimbo

    95% of people that vote are just chewing through the free text’s included in their bundle.

    So in short, this doesn’t generate much money for anyone.

    The powers that be are being stupid about this. They could charge people 25cents/vote and they’d still pay.

  2. Richard H-S

    Juha is right. To reinforce ATT are not the real winners in this space. Its the TV companies. The next thing to watch for is willful abuse of this revenue stream. ITV in the UK are taking multi-million pound fines from the regulators. Reckon that they wish they had never heard of premium SMS.

  3. This kind of SMS to TV interaction is almost 10 years old in Europe and Asia. We’ve had SMS votings, chats, games and bunch of other stuff since 2000 and the SMS messages have mostly been premium messages priced at about 1.5 USD (about 1 EUR) per message providing quite significant revenues not just to operators but to the TV networks and production companies. I used to run such a business back in 2000. You guys should study a lot more what has happened in Europe since 2000 in this area…

  4. ol' yeller

    .04 per vote is a weighted average based on actual statistics – some users pay a la carte .20 per vote, some have plans and average .01 per message.

  5. I think .04 or .05/vote is pretty aggressive since the demographics most likely to vote are the same who are likely to be heavy text users to start with.

    I’d love to know the stats, but it’s probably more about driving the text habit and therefore message bundles than per-message fees.

  6. ol yeller

    Probably AT&T made about $0.04 per vote, plus whatever additional traffic the show generated through banter among friends. Some people probably upgraded their text bundles too. Plus some free marketing.

  7. Erik,
    Is the 97 million isn’t unique though. It probably contains a group of people that voted multiple times. Do they release a unique number regarding how many participants there are?
    I agree with above that with the transformation of smart phone, the way voting will be done might be completely different in a couple years.

  8. “Will be interesting if Apple and iPhone teach them to vote in some other way over WiFi….”

    Not soon.

    There are about 3 million iPhones in the US. AI received 97 million votes yesterday.

    The digerati is not the mainstream.

  9. anonymous

    Om, operators sell SMS in packages and a la carte. I think it averages to about $0.05c per message. I think the bigger deal for AT&T and operators here is that people started to use text via. Idol.

    Will be interesting if Apple and iPhone teach them to vote in some other way over WiFi….