Battle of the Reality Show Judges: Who Will Be The Winner (and how much will it cost)?

By Mysterious Q

When it comes to popular USA reality television talent competitions like American Idol, The X-Factor, America's Got Talent and The Voice, there are really big advertising bucks at stake and the producers of those programs are willing to shell out millions for judges that will bring home the viewers. Are they getting their money's worth?

American Idol is the most popular talent show on American Television with reports that have recent earnings at around six hundred million dollars plus for a recent season. However, one contender is catching up. Despite a wide gap in earning power, The Voice is catching up in terms of viewers and is now reportedly more popular with younger people than Idol. Why?

After so many seasons, any show will start to show it's age when it comes to lower audience numbers. Idol has tweaked its format, but the judges are all over forty and so are most of the mentors. By comparison, The Voice's panel of judges are all under forty and most have current hits on the music charts. While generally earning less than their Idol counterparts, the judges on The Voice appear to be producing more when it comes to attracting young and highly sought-after viewers.

When it comes to spending money on the judges, The real gambler among the reality television talent show producers is Simon Cowell. After a somewhat shaky first season, The X-Factor may have hit pay dirt with Cowell's acquisition of Britney Spears as a judge and mentor. Will she be worth the reported fifteen million dollars being shelled out for her services? Only time will tell if that gamble will pay off, but Britney is arguably one of the most popular and successful pop stars in the world. She is someone who often creates drama and is the target of insatiable public interest. That has got to be a plus for X-Factor ratings.

The most controversial addition to a reality television talent competition panel of judges has to be Howard Stern. The self-proclaimed 'King Of All Media' joins America's Got Talent to replace Piers Morgan. Stern is a wild card because no one is sure if he will work and play well with others, or whether his unique form of humor will work on prime-time television as well as it has on his radio show. While no one has actually stated what Howard will be paid for this new gig, a few sources close to the bone say it is somewhere between fifteen and twenty million dollars.

The value that Stern will bring to America's Got talent depends on his ability to fill the gap left by Piers Morgan, get along with Howie Mandel and Sharon Osbourne while still standing out on his own, and bring the sting that Piers had to his evaluation of the contestants. Reality TV talent shows like Idol and America's Got Talent need at least one bad or tough guy judge and maybe that's why Idol is flip-flopping around in the ratings. Simon Cowell's departure from that show left a big hole that I have yet to see filled.

The Voice is a different beast with a unique format that doesn't depend on a nasty or annoying Simon Cowell or Piers Morgan type character to bring the viewers. That fact may be what the future of these types of talent competitions will be if they survive at all. At this point viewers are still hot for these shows and appear to be showing up in droves. The renewed popularity of the Modern Country and Pop Music formats have also contributed to the health of these reality television projects.

With pop groups like One Direction and The Wanted being mobbed by adoring fans everywhere they go, boy bands appear to be back with a revenge and might help fuel even more interest in television talent competitions. Older groups like The Backstreet Boys, 98 Degrees and even MTV's mythical boy band concoction know as 2gether are planning tours this summer. The more the spotlight shines on Pop music, the more reality TV talent competitions will benefit a long as they can deliver the goods that attract younger viewers.

It's hard to say which of the top four reality television talent shows will come out ahead of the pack, but the winner will certainly be the one that gets the best ratings, generates the highest ad revenues, provides the most drama and creates the most controversy. With newbies like Britney Spears and Howard Stern in the mix, it's certain that controversy and drama of one type or another will surely be in mix (and that kind of controversy and drama doesn't come cheap).

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