American Idol kicks off tonight, its three main advertisers will be paying up to $35 million each for their slot, according to the
Hollywood Reporter. Coca-Cola, Ford and AT&T are handing over even more cash than last year, in which they each spent an estimated $30 million for the opportunity to be featured.
While Idol has practically spawned its own mini-industry, some observers expect this season's ratings to inflate along with the ad dollars, given the dearth of original programming during the writers' strike.
Along with more money, the show will also feature more and enhanced ways to go behind the scenes and get involved with the show. Coke, for example, will be repeating its Coke cup design contest, but this year, participants will also be invited to post their original designs to their social networking pages and submit their urls to Coke, which will randomly pick a winner.
If watching a mix of the talented and the terrible goes down easier with soda, then we'll be cracking open those cans. Either way, this season could be shaping up to be the biggest (and most expensive) yet. - Anna Dimond
" Video preview: American Idol Returns