So how much does the No. 1 show on TV, "American Idol," really cost Fox, and how much does the network make from the show?
An article by Joe Flint of the the Los Angeles Times provides some of those answers. Flint, in writing about the battle to control CKX, the company that owns "Idol," gives us these numbers:
"According to people with knowledge of the network’s arrangement, Fox pays three license fees and multiple sets of bonuses for the rights to broadcast the show.
"The first is a flat fee of $1 million to $1.5 million an hour that Fox pays CKX and Fremantle for each of the first 37 episodes. The fee escalates sharply for each additional episode the network orders, which occurs frequently (last season, for example, Fox ordered an additional 19 hours). "Idol" is usually one hour, but given the contestant structure of the show, two-hour episodes are not out of the ordinary.
"Fox also pays what is described in CKX’s filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission as a "contractual license fee" above the per-hour fee that is split between CKX and Fremantle. Last season that supplemental fee totaled $35.5 million. And it pays additional bonuses on top of that based on the show’s ratings."
Flint also writes that estimates are that Fox pulls in more than $800 million annually for "Idol."
So if you add all this up so far, it has Fox spending about $119.5 million, no including the amount of fees not specified. Then you have to add another $35 million for Simon Cowell’s salary, Flint writes.
That totals $154.5 million, not including paying the other judges, and other expenses. Still, the amount of money Fox is clearing from ‘Idol’ each year could be $400 million to $500 million.
And starting next season they won’t have Cowell’s huge salary.
So while "Idol" slipped 9% in the ratings this year, to 24.3 million average viewers, it’s still a very significant money maker.