- - Sunday, May 27, 2012

Coming in second on “American Idol” may still be a path to stardom, but it no longer offers guaranteed paychecks worthy of the next pop idol or rock star.

Wednesday night’s “Idol” runner-up, Jessica Sanchez, doesn’t have a definite shot at producing an album and could be paid as little as $30,000 in advances for recording singles. This is according to the “Idol” contract she and other season 11 contestants signed that was reviewed by the Associated Press.

The agreement is the first time in “Idol’s” history that producers are not offering the show’s runner-up an album deal that in previous years had a guaranteed advance of at least $175,000. The move comes amid declining album sales for the recording industry and a drop in viewership for the “Idol” show. Nearly 22 million TV viewers may seem like a lot — but for an “Idol” season-ender, it’s a new low.

The crowd that tuned in Wednesday night when bluesy guitar man Phillip Phillips won the “Idol” crown constituted the smallest for an “Idol” finale in its history, according to final Nielsen Co. figures.

The audience of 21.5 million was down by nearly one-third from the 29.3 million viewers who saw country singer Scotty McCreery’s victory a year ago, an audience total that had rebounded by 20 percent from the finale in 2010.

Chris Harrison
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The Fox singing competition experienced ratings erosion during this entire season.

ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars” finale show Tuesday night also drew its lowest audience ever for a season-capper, averaging 17.8 million viewers, down about 18 percent from a year ago.

‘Bachelor’ host Harrison lists his favorite romances

Chris Harrison has seen a lot of roses. As host of ABC’s “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette,” the 40-year-old has a front-row seat as an eligible man or woman looking for “the one” is wooed by 25 suitors (often with the help of alcohol, over-the-top dates, a hot tub or occasional sleepover).

In a recent Associated Press interview, Mr. Harrison said his favorite romances in the 16-season history of “The Bachelor” and eight seasons of “The Bachelorette” are Trista and Ryan Sutter and Emily Maynard and Brad Womack.

“Trista and Ryan were just lightning in a bottle. I don’t know if we’ll ever capture anything like that again. That one will always stand out,” he said. (They were married in 2003 in a live TV special and now have two children.)

Ms. Maynard and Mr. Womack weren’t so lucky. Despite their engagement at the end of season 15 of “The Bachelor,” they only lasted a few months as a couple.

“I felt like the two of them were meant to be and it was gonna work. When they broke up, I was really sad,” Mr. Harrison said.

Ms. Maynard, meanwhile, is giving the chance for love another try. ABC named her its newest “Bachelorette,” and her season is now airing on Monday nights.

“Everybody’s had this appetite for her,” Mr. Harrison said. “She’s so contagious. You just want to care for her, you want to root for her, you want her to do well, and that really makes for a perfect Bachelorette. When her name came up, we started bantering about and it was a unanimous home run. It’s very rare that it’s unanimous.”

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