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American Idol amplifies reach with new iPhone app

Known for relying on SMS texts to vote for favorite performers, the world-famous American Idol show on the Fox television network now has its own iPhone application as it enters its eighth season of broadcast.

Created by mobile app developer Zumobi Network for show producers FremantleMedia Enterprises and 19 Entertainment, the "American Idol Season 8 Exclusive" app follows the reality TV show's top 13 finalists as they compete for the American Idol's title. The app debuted this morning at the Apple App Store.

"The strategy was to develop a compelling app for iPhone users that delivered a unique experience for American Idol fans," said Ken Willner, CEO of Zumobi, Seattle.

FremantleMedia launched the app only days after the top 13 American Idol finalists were picked live on Fox.

The American Idol app gives fans exclusive content to keep them coming back weekly to stay connected and track their favorite singing contestants in the current season.

Part of the app's appeal is the multimedia content, daily news updates in the "Buzz" and "Bio" sections, contestant biographies and pictures.

Another feature designed to engage the American Idol fan is "My Rankings." Consumers can predict, customize and track the order of who stays and who gets voted off weekly.

Moreover, as consumers track their favorite singer's progress, they are one click away from the American Idol iTunes page where they can download music for purchase from recent performances.

The app also showcases behind-the-scenes video footage of the show. All told, 78 original videos of the remaining contestants will be released each week through the final episode.

American Idol Season 8 Exclusive is priced at $1.99. Consumers can download it from the Apple App Store on iPhone and iPod touch or at

"There are a few, limited opportunities for sponsors to be featured in the app, and this helps us keep the cost of the app down," Mr. Willner said.

Zumobi designs, develops, distributes and markets sponsored and branded apps for iPhones and iPod touch as well as Research In Motion's BlackBerry, Windows Mobile and Android. The company has created apps for brands such as PepsiCo's Mountain Dew, Microsoft's Xbox, Lenovo and REI.

American Idol's migration to an iPhone app marks yet another affirmation for the brand's use of mobile for engaging with its audience.

The show airs Tuesday and Wednesday nights as contestants duel before critical judges and the nation to win the mantle of American Idol. Only AT&T subscribers can text in their votes, making SMS revenues one of the top earners both for the show and the wireless carrier.

The show's producer and app creator are confident that the iPhone app will appeal to American Idol fans and viewers interested in staying updated with the most-watched reality show on TV.

"It goes without saying that American Idol has an extremely strong, dedicated following, so developing an app for them was a natural fit," Zumobi's Mr. Willner said.

Dan Butcher reported.