Stacking up the singing competition shows

An "American Idol" contestant performs.
An “American Idol” contestant performs.

How do American Idol, X Factor, and Voice compare to one another?

When American Idol debuted on Fox in the summer of 2002, no one knew what a phenomenon the series would turn out to be. Along the way, it spawned successes (X Factor, created by former Idol judge Simon Cowell and NBC’s The Voice) and some flops (The One.)

Singing/talent competitions are nothing new: Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts and Ted Mack’s Original Amateur Hour first gave contestants the ability to sing, perform comedy, etc., in the early days of television. Future programs in this genre would give us Star Search and (gulp) The Gong Show.

Today, Idol, X Factor, and Voice are battling out for audiences in an increasingly fragmented environment- and the strain is showing. Idol’s ratings are down this year, and was recently beaten in the ratings by The Big Bang Theory and just this past week by Two And A Half Men, but is still Fox’s top-rated show. X Factor hasn’t been a runaway hit, but has done well enough in the ratings to stick around. The Voice has helped NBC out of its ratings doldrums and will have to rescue them again when it returns March 25 – this time, without the services of judges Christina Aguilera and Cee Lo Green, each taking a sabbatical. With Idol seemingly in a ratings freefall this season, will The Voice top it in total viewers and in adults 18-49 for the first time ever?

Should be interesting to watch.

Now to the question at hand: how do the shows stack up with one another? Well, the chart below compares each shows’ ad rates, sponsors audiences, and how much each judge makes. Here’s a brief summary on how the shows stack up:

You’d think because Idol averaged 22 million-plus viewers last season, you’d think it would get the highest ad rates, right? Despite Cowell’s former show drawing more viewers, his X Factor drew an average ad price of $475,000 per 30 second commercial, compared to Idol’s $296,000. But where it really counts, Idol drew an average of $6.6 million of ad revenue per half-hour, compared to X Factor’s $5.5 million.

There was a wide disparity of salary between X Factor judges: While Britney Spears earned $15 million during her one-year run (she declined to return for another season), Demi Lovato earned just $1 million.

Poor Keith Urban. Not only the country singer has to sit between bickering judges Nicki Manaj and Mariah Carey, he earns far less ($100,000 per episode to Carey’s $425,000 and Manaj’s $300,000.) He should be paid way more.

No doubt the biggest winning alumnus to emerge from each show is Idol’s first season winner (Kelly Clarkson) and fourth season winner Carrie Underwood – both have numerous Grammys under their belt. The latter’s net worth is more than first-season X Factor winner Melanie Amaro’s and Voice’s winner Javier Colon’s combined.

(Editor’s Note: The chart in this story was deleted due to the site providing it becoming defunct. Just take my word for it. -T.H.)