‘Idol’ Never Dies

The “American Idol” franchise continues to have a future, with debut ratings for this season showing the teen-driven phenomenon healthier than ever.

Nielsen Media Research counted 36 million viewers watching the premiere broadcast January 17th, 9 percent higher than last year’s launch. It is unusual for a five-year-old television program to show a ratings growth over its previous season, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The news was especially welcome to new Idol owner CKX, which bought out Simon Fuller’s 19 Entertainment last year for more than $191 million.

If “Idol” took a ratings dip, it “would have a material adverse effect on our business,” CKX said in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Fox TV agreed to pay a license fee of $18 million for the show this year, climbing to $35.5 million in 2009, according to USA Today.

CKX and its president, Robert F.X. Sillerman, plan to launch a Web site with Fox called AmericanIdol.com. Currently, the site jumps to IdolOnFox.com, but apparently the new Web site will provide premium services, including video outtakes.

The positive outlook should be a boon to talent buyers if the opening ratings are any indicator of how well the inevitable tour of “Idol” finalists will fare.