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Why Australian Idol is the Best Show on TV

15 November 200901:14PMrants

Ooh, shock headline. Don't worry, I'm not actually a fan. This is an acknowledgment of the pure genius behind a show like this. Australian Idol is a license to print money, a genetically engineered steroid enhanced cash-cow.

Moo

The premise of a show like this is simple. Each week, the most popular get voted through to next week. This is the essence of the show- it's not the best performers, or the most talented who get through (although these are, admittedly, the basis for the audience's decisions) , it's the most popular. In other words, the ones which the greatest proportion of the audience wants to see more of. _Hence, from week to week, the show gets a more and more refined version of _exactly what the audience wants. Still don't see where this is going? Let's have a look then.

Having created their posse of popularity, the show's producers have also given themselves the ultimate marketing tool. This group is guaranteed the most liked by the public, with the numbers to back it up from the votes. From there, they can slap their Idols on anything and have a built-in, focussed group of interested viewers. And boy oh boy do they milk it for all its worth.

Ads. Product endorsements. Anything from Panasonic TVs, to crappy Hyundai cars, to Mentos-branded tickets to the show's mosh pit. Heck, even the show's presenter does a deodorant ad during the ad breaks. Then there's the appearances. They can stick them on other shows (Rove, or the 7pm project) to boost ratings. They can send them to charity events to build even bigger hype- and rake in more sponsorship dollars from the charity's sponsors (coughMcDonaldsHouseCharitycough). They can get them to serve at KFC, for the lulz. They can plonk them in a local shopping mall, put up a couple of posters and a folding table and charge five bucks for autographs, and the place will be flooded, and the producers will be swimming in it.

The post-autograph party.

Despite all this clear artificiality, the audience still cares. Those touching stories, the emotional interviews, the heartwarming childhood photos- they aren't just there for laughs. They make you care about who wins, because not only do you then have a financial investment in the form of your voting cash (an intriguing psychological phenomenon itself- you have to keep voting to keep your favourite in otherwise it's wasted, even though it was wasted from the start.), you have an emotional investment too.

And then, they have an enormous party. Heck they hire out the most famous concert venue in the world - that's how much cash they make. Then again, revenues from millions of 50c votes would easily cover that, and the fireworks, and the guest stars. All of which adds to the incredible, incredible hype, which creates even more exploitable audiences, which creates more cash... the cycle repeats.

By the end of the thing, they have a legion* of hype-rabid, crazy-devoted fans with a prior investment (hey, 2-3x50c a week for 4 months adds up- this is why they have no limit on phone voting) and what do they do? They find something to sell them! Wheee! The winner's single! Instant cash. They wouldn't even have to pay for production costs- heck, if I was a record company I'd pay for that kind of risk-free instant return. In fact, they probably do... And where does this leave the public? With one mediocre single and nothing else to show for your months of devotion force-fed endorsements, carefully targeted demographic ads, and dollars upon dollars of voting fees and your 27 bucks for the album.

Stacks of cash, an instant fanbase, and a perfectly sculpted captive audience for whatever the producers choose- all for just the initial outlay of a prime- time time slot, a sound stage and a few venues across the country.

So, Idol producers. I take my hat off to you.

Never mind the picture.

No, you didn't invent the concept, but you have it down to a fine art, a streamlined, beautiful machine that takes talent and uses it as a catalyst for huge amounts of cash. And it works, goddamn it. Because despite all this criticism, the audience ends up with a new artist who doesn't entirely suck, the artist gets "the experience of a lifetime" and a record deal, the record company gets cash to cover its financial losses from illegal downloading, Channel Ten gets its stacks of cash, its advertisers get publicity which isn't shouty ads, and my mum gets something to do on Sunday night. Win-win-win-win- win.

Genius...

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