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AT&T a Text Winner in “Idol” Season Seven


Brian Quinton


May 27, 2008

The Fox TV show “American Idol” has been informally credited with encouraging the growth of the SMS channel by giving millions of viewers a reason to type in their votes for favorites.

Last week, AT&T, which has sponsored text voting for the show since the 2003 second season, put a yardstick to the “Idol” effect by releasing stats on the text traffic generated during the most recent seventh season, which ended last Thursday with a win for singer David Cook. The carrier said “Idol” viewers sent more than 78 million text messages this season, breaking last year’s record of 64.5 million messages last year.

AT&T claims its sponsorship of Fox’s “American Idol” has helped extend the SMS user base beyond the youth demographic.

An informal poll on the AT&T Web site from March 7 to May 5 found that 51% of 416 respondents said they tend to send more text messages during the “Idol” season than at other times of the year. Forty-three percent of those polled said they text friends to talk about “Idol” performances during the show. And 22% said they first learned to use text messaging by casting votes for their favorite contestants on the show.

AT&T has not broken out the messaging revenue its sponsorship of “American Idol” has brought in over the years, or for this most recent season. Users can wind up spending as much as 10 cents to send a text message, although most wireless consumers today have service plans that charge a flat rate as low as $2.99 for a “bucket” of messages.

Besides constant branding throughout the shows, AT&T used “American Idol” to promote notable products. For example, the penultimate episode informed the three semi-finalists which two would go on to compete for the grand prize via their Apple iPhones, which are at the moment exclusive to the AT&T wireless network.




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