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Paula Abdul Chasing the Money, But Will She Catch It?

August 7, 2009

Now that we are almost certain that Paula Abdul is leaving American Idol, I would like to give you a moment to bow your heads in solemn reflection, and remember the things most important to you.




Was that enough time?  No?  Well reflect more later, at a red light or the laundromat or something.  I’ve got entertainment news to throw at you.

As faithful readers of TBTS probably guessed, I thought about Taco Bell and Megan Fox, the two things dearest to me in this crazy world.  It appears that Caleb and I also mused, however, on Paula Abdul’s future:  what was she thinking?  Let’s figure it out.

From all reports it seems her departure is a done deal, since she has not been given the contract she sought with only three weeks to go before AI’s season nine starts filming.  Her asking price?  $20 million, though I couldn’t find whether that was for one year or several.  Abdul rejected a 30% raise, which would have been a multi-year, 8-figure paycheck.  She and her manager, David Sonenberg, felt that she was underappreciated—read: underpaid—especially after host Ryan Seacrest inked a three-year deal worth $45 million.  (Simon Cowell is reportedly asking $100 million per year.  If he gets that, I’ll have to rethink my position on humanity’s innate goodness.)

Was Abdul underpaid?  Hell no.  Who cares if American Idol is the top-rated show on TV.  No one who spends minutes a week spouting inanities at sweating, warbling amateurs trying to leapfrog the dues-paying bar-band circuit to become an instant star “deserves” millions of dollars a year.  Only people who have contributed to the betterment of humanity, and myself, “deserve” that kind of money (we’ll not discuss free market principles here—you know what I mean).  The correct question is, was she underpaid relative to the other AI cast members?  I can’t blame her for asking: sure she acts drunk or stoned a lot and spews incomprehensible crap, but why should she get paid less than the schmo who tried to high-five a blind guy?

But if the show is making a zillion dollars a year, shouldn’t the people helping it make so much money (Simon, Randy, Paula, Kara, Ryan, and the production crew) share in the wealth?  Yes, but that’s what contract negotiations are all about, and the people who produce the show—FremantleMedia and 19 Entertainment—get to decide.  Abdul and her manager may have been playing chicken, thinking she was indispensable (well, at least $20 million indispensable).  The producers decided she wasn’t and didn’t meet her offer.  Abdul decided not to work for her old salary.  Thus, the face of AI changes.

Who got the better end of the deal?  Hard to say.  AI‘s viewership and ad revenue are unlikely to drop so much that keeping Abdul on at her preferred salary would have made financial sense.  For Abdul’s part, will another show pay her what AI would have with the 30% raise?  She was offered a guest judging spot on So You Think You Can Dance in June, so maybe a larger payday is in her future.  If she can pull down even close to what she was asking AI for, more power to her: she will have accurately gauged her “worth” in the TV market, and she’ll look like a genius.  If not, she’ll be kicking herself, and probably her manager, for a long time.

One Comment
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