American Idol sees 178M SMS interactions

The eighth season of Fox's hit show "American Idol" has more than doubled last year's record for fan engagement through text messaging.

Over 178 million text messages traveled through the AT&T network dwarfing the 78 million messages tallied from last year.

"This engagement signifies that not only has text messaging become mainstream, it has solidified its place as a viable way for entire families to stay connected to each other, their friends and colleagues, and with many of today's popular entertainment shows," said Jennifer Erdman, senior marketing manager, youth sponsorships and promotions, AT&T mobility and consumer markets, Atlanta, GA.

"This fact has not gone unnoticed by the mobile industry as there is now a push to offer more affordable texting plans as well as easy-to-use texting phones," she said.

The text message traffic registered is not only made up of text votes, though.

AT&T and American Idol create as many pathways as possible for fans to interact with the show.
American Idol nuts can answer weekly trivia questions and submit questions to AT&T-hosted chat sessions with the most recent voted-off contestants.

"Not only are fans interacting with the show, many interact with each other while watching the show or with their favorite Idol blogs," Ms. Erdman said.

Mobile users can also opt in to receive voting number reminders and participate in AT&T's sweepstakes.

The popularity of American Idol obviously added to text message participation as it concerns voting, but AT&T also reported that the number of customers who played weekly Idol Trivia via text messaging more than doubled from last season.

The number of customers who opted in to receive the weekly voting number reminders went up 70 percent this season compared to last.

American Idol does not limit itself to text messaging alone. During the week of May 10, Idol contestants ring tones comprised 15 of the top 100 tones.

AT&T's Sweepstakes also put up some big numbers with over 191,000 AT&T subscribers entering the contest.

The grand-prize winner, Kori Hoesel out of Texas, received a trip to the American Idol finale with her daughter and the chance to win up to $1 million.

She was presented a variety of Samsung Propel phones by former Idol contestants, each assigned a different cash value.
Hoesel brought $50,000 back to Texas after making her choice.

Among other initiatives within the AT&T/American Idol partnership, AT&T gave fans sneak previews of former contestant David Cook, and former Idol winner Kelly Clarkson's new music videos.

"Mobile is a great fit for American Idol as it provides the platform to introduce a variety of interactive elements so fans can stay connected to their favorite IDOL moments," Ms. Erdman said.

"It also gives AT&T customers the ability to download exclusive IDOL ringtone content to their phones, as well as the ease and quickness to fire off their votes each week, no matter where they happen to be," she said.