Core Media Chief Dishes on American Idol Changes, Bloated Judges Salaries

Core Media president, and NBC and CBS vet, Marc Graboff, spoke with the Hollywood Reporter on a wide range of topics covering network TV. About American Idol, which Core owns, Grabon spoke about the show’s value to FOX, the changes ahead and those huge salaries paid to celebrity judges.

Graboff explains why those who are predicting Idol’s immediate demise are off the mark. The ratings are down, but the 11 year old show still makes money for FOX.

Given the money being thrown at the host and judges, coupled with shrinking ratings, at what point does Idol not make financial sense?

Fox still makes a very nice profit from the ad revenue alone, and it helps them command a bit of a premium in the marketplace. There are a lot of intangibles. Think about what it does for their retrans negotiations and as a promotional platform. You’ve got to think about how many hours of television Idol provides for that network, too, so the unit cost per hour goes way down as a result. That said, the show’s expensive. At what point does it not make sense? When the ratings fall below a certain point, if we can’t read just the cost of the show, there could be a problem. But I don’t see that happening anytime soon.

Graboff hints at at the changes afoot. The music is going to be different, he says, and the focus will be back on the contestants–two things that absolutely HAVE to happen, so I hope he’s not blowing smoke. I’m sure budgets were cut, but the producers need to be committed to laying out some cash for music rights.

How are you readjusting?

We’ve revamped the show this year behind the camera and in front of it. The judging panel is, as a whole, cheaper than last year because you’ve got one fewer judge. I could never bring myself to watch it when I was at NBC because it was the Death Star; now, I have intimate knowledge of it. Look, last season was not a great season, but I think we all learned a lot. Idol is still the gold standard, so what we’ve done this year is refresh the format and make it about the contestants again. The music’s going to be different and so is the look. And initial reports are that the judging panel has got a lot of good chemistry.

It still burns that Jennifer Lopez can command such a huge salary. The producers should have turned her down. By the way, Jennifer was actually the first highly paid judge celebrity judge–before Christina Aguilera and The Voice premiered.

Where is the ceiling on these monstrous judge salaries?

They get it because they can. The arms race for competition-show judges started with Christina Aguilera on The Voice, and Idol should not have played into that arms race. But once they started, it got crazier. And then X Factor and then The Voice again — it ramps up. This year, other than one of the three [Jennifer Lopez, making an estimated $15 million], it’s within a normal salary range.

Read more at The Hollywood Reporter

About mj santilli 30423 Articles
Founder and editor of, home of the awesomest fan community on the net. I love cheesy singing shows of all kinds, whether reality or scripted. I adore American Idol, but also love The Voice, Glee, X Factor and more!