How American Idol Can Reignite Its Fans Using Data


It’s official – ABC is picking up American Idol in 2018. After 15 seasons, and the debut of stars like Carrie Underwood, Kelly Clarkson, and Adam Lambert, Idol officially came to a close in April 2016. Now, one year later, the show that ignited the reality competition trend is back. But how can American Idol execs reignite the Idol fanbase?

Although the show has already garnered buzz (Katy Perry has officially signed on as a judge), the key to reigniting fans is to understand the nature of the audience that will tune in and how engaged they are with its content.

By leveraging audience affinity data, it is possible to understand online TV audiences better than ever before. American Idol can take a data-backed approach and use audience insights to inform its back-to-TV strategy. From identifying who should judge, to who should host, to what brands to sponsor or place products, affinity data is the optimal way to source potential candidates that will leave a lasting impression and reignite the interest of fans.

Data shows who fans want to see on Idol

To understand those already engaging with Idol, I ran an Affinio report on the combined audience of anyone who mentioned #AmericanIdol - or - "American Idol" in the past thirty days. Affinio identified 96,340 individuals who met this criterion.

The audience visualization below reveals how the +96,000 individuals segmented into 12 interest-based communities including Sports Fans, Country Music Fans, Gamers, and more. By segmenting audience members into interest-based communities, you can hone in on each community and pinpoint the celebrities, brands, and organizations that matter most to audience members.

Image: Interest-based segments who mentioned #AmericanIdol - or - “American Idol.”

Who are the celebrities most relevant to the overall Idol audience?

In looking at the celebrities with a high relevance to the overall audience already engaging with Idol, we can identify entertainers like Drake, Rihanna, Ariana Grande, Lady Gaga, and Taylor Swift among others. Other high relevance celebrities include Katy Perry (who is already set to join the roster) and past Idol-champs Carrie Underwood and Kelly Clarkson. Any of the celebrities who appear in the grid above are highly relevant and are already capturing the attention of potential viewers. Would you like to see any of those stars as an Idol judge?

But what about the brands looking to cash in?

At its peak, American Idol brought in 36.4 million viewers. For brands like Coca-Cola, who were front and stage with a product placement deal, these numbers were impressive and desirable. In its final year, Idol brought in 13.3 million viewers for it’s finale episode. Although numbers have dropped, with the promise of ABC's "bigger and bolder" reboot, ratings and viewers may soar, and brands can capitalize on the opportunity. But what brands will get the most bang for their buck?

In looking at the brands with a high relevance to the overall audience already engaging with Idol, we can see brands like Wendy’s, Taco Bell, Amazon, Pizza Hut, and of course - Coca Cola - among others.

Audience insights in action

Selecting celebrity stars and sponsor brands that resonate with an audience is a powerful method for engaging with the desired community, staying relevant, and generating buzz – which will be critical for American Idol to re-produce the same viewership as it did in its prime years. By leveraging affinity data like in the analysis above, advertisers and Idol execs have the cultural insights needed to make better strategic decisions that can maximize viewership, social engagement, ad sales, and more.

See in you 2018, American Idol!