Your American Idol memory might be of the transformation of Carrie Underwood from an awkward amateur to a commanding star. Or it might be of William Hung getting famous for his off-key audition performance of Ricky Martin's hit song "She Bangs".
Mine will be how the Fox talent show – which will end its run in 2016 after 15 years - made mobile a star.
In the United States, mobile eventually became more of a must-have consumer device primarily for three reasons: American Idol integrated text into its voting process in 2003 during its second season; text messaging was made available as a cross-carrier product, allowing cell phone users to reach anyone with a mobile device with a messaging capability regardless of the mobile operator that the subscriber chose; and Motorola introduced what became the best-selling RAZR, a clamshell phone that was thin, capable, and an instant fashion statement.
Ten years after the world’s first commercial text message was sent by employees of LogicaCMG, just how dramatic was texting’s growth because of American Idol, which had become one of TV’s highest-rated shows?
More than 7.5 million American Idol-related text messages were sent by AT&T Wireless customers throughout the 2003 season, including polls, sweepstakes entries, trivia, and votes, according to numbers released by the carrier. More than one-third of all participants had never even sent a text message as an AT&T Wireless customer before American Idol. The number of text votes received increased by nearly 5,000 percent from the first voting episode to the last voting episode. More than 2,300 text messages per second were processed at one point during the voting.
American Idol eventually stopped breaking out its vote totals by text versus online. By the end of Season 10 in the spring of 2011, a total of 4.8 billion votes had been cast over the decade of programming. Clearly, messaging via mobile devices had played a major role in the show’s success but the story was much broader than that. In 2009, texting eclipsed voice as the leading daily activity on wireless devices. In 2010, 2.1 trillion text messages were sent and received in the United States, stats from CTIA – The Wireless Association reveal.
Mobile owes American Idol a debt of gratitude if not a trophy.
- It took traditional media to get text messaging to go mainstream.
- American Idol wisely used text messaging because the great majority of viewers had the capability on their devices.
- The fact that multiple generations watch American Idol together pushed up the average age of texting.
- The least sexy mobile application—short message service (SMS)—was the tool to make American Idol cool.
(article first appeared on imediaconnection.com - http://blogs.imediaconnection.com/blog/2015/05/11/american-idol-made-mobile-a-star/)