The producers of Fox’s “American Idol” are looking to give the long-running televised singing competition a fresh hook and attract viewers with new interactive features offered through partnerships with Google and Facebook.
In a first for Google, people who use its search engine to learn more about the show, its contestants or judges will be able to cast votes directly from within Google’s search results.
Facebook users, meanwhile, might see their profile pictures displayed during the telecast when they cast a ballot.
“Now more than ever, we’ve got these incredible technology platforms that can be used in real time to not only reflect what’s happening on the show, but to create a two-way dialog between the viewers and the show itself,” said Bill Bradford, senior vice president of digital for Fox Broadcasting.
The singing competition, now in its 13th season, has launched the musical careers of Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood and Taylor Hicks. It still attracts millions of viewers, though ratings have declined from its heyday.
Google proposed a new voting wrinkle for the show that has been in the vanguard of at-home audience participation. Viewers will be able to cast ballots for favorite performers whenever they use their computers, smartphones or tablets to search for more information about the show.
A voting module will begin appearing in the Google search results, starting with the finalist performances on Feb. 26.
“It’s the first time we have voting go to the user,” Luner said, noting that viewers can already support their favorite performers through toll-free balloting by phone, texting and online voting.
When it comes to online voting, Facebook already works with Fox and Fremantle to verify that the ballots cast online and through the “American Idol” mobile application are viewers, not an automated software program.
Facebook will work with Fox and Fremantle to provide more detailed information about balloting during the show’s live performance -- including information about how the voting is split along demographic or geographic lines.
Bradford said Fox is hoping to match the excitement of election-night coverage, in which real-time returns (from the East Coast, where the show is aired lived) heighten the stakes of the competition.
“What we’re doing is basically creating a visualization as part of this show, as the votes come in real time,” he said.
If Facebook users agree, their profile photos may also appear during the broadcast -- along with the performer they’re supporting.
“At the end of the day, it’s a socialized competition,” said Fremantle’s Luner. “This is a chance to share all of the information, all of the content.”