All News & Blogs
'The Voice' (left) features (from left) Adam Levine, Cee Lo Green, Christina Aguilera and Blake Shelton. 'X Factor' (right) stars (from left) L.A. Reid, Demi Lovato,
NBC AND FOX
View More Images from this story
Visit the Photo Place
BY SCOTT COLLINS
Los Angeles Times
LOS ANGELES--Singing competition shows supposedly were about finding the best young talent. But that's taken a back seat to a different imperative: Who's got the biggest pop stars on the marquee?
That's why Simon Cowell's "X Factor," returning for Season 2, dumped Paula Abdul and Nicole Scherzinger in favor of a pair with much better recent Billboard stats, Britney Spears and Demi Lovato.
And it's why "Idol," coming back in January, grabbed pop diva Mariah Carey for $18 million and is reportedly waving enormous checks at current hit-maker Nicki Minaj. (Randy Jackson, a producer little-known outside the music business when he signed on for "Idol's" first season in 2002, will reportedly return as a judge after producers failed to make a deal with another current hit maker, Enrique Iglesias.)
NBC's "The Voice," which also returned this week, is keeping intact its star lineup of Christina Aguilera, Cee Lo Green, Adam Levine and Blake Shelton.
It's an arms race and the silo with the biggest missiles wins--or so TV executives may hope.
"Whenever they say, 'It's about the contestants' and so forth, I don't think it is," said Brian Hughes, an analyst for ad firm Magna Global. "It's about making a splash, right?"
Executives for "Idol," "Factor" and "The Voice" declined to comment on the record. But a splash is indeed what these shows are aiming for. Producers say they're in the business of finding pop stars--when Cowell left "Idol" a few seasons back, Fox executives repeatedly said it didn't matter since the show was "all about the kids"--when they are in fact in the business of making hit TV shows.
Only two "Idol" winners out of the first 11 seasons have become durable pop stars: Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood, who have together sold more than 26 million albums.
Impressive as that is, it's a drop in the bucket compared with the cliff-drop of the record industry, where sales have plummeted from $14.6 billion in 1999 to less than half that today, according to For-rester Research.
Clarkson has moved so far beyond her "Idol" days that this summer she headlined a singing show on a rival network, ABC's ill-received "Duets."