Monday, May 23, 2011

An Oddsmaker's Take on This Year's Idol Finale...

Article first published as American Idol: Countdown to the Finale on Technorati.

So, we’re down to the final countdown.  The American Idol Season Ten Finale airs tomorrow night on Fox.  Check here for local listings and pay attention!  The finale will be held on Tuesday and Wednesday nights this week, rather than Wednesday and Thursday as per usual (

Who will win the big event?  How will it all go down tomorrow night?  I stay up at night worrying about these and other burning questions (plus, how I’ll pay for my kids’ college and weddings, but that’s a topic for another article altogether).  I have my own thoughts about who America (or at least American Teenagers) will choose as their American Idol, but I thought I’d reach out and see what the pros had to say on the topic.  Did you know that American Idol is an enormous Vegas event?  Apparently, it is one of the largest Events in the Entertainment Book, or non-sports betting.  Imagine laying down hundreds trying to predict how America’s ever-fickle-under-20-set will vote on any given night?  How maddening! 

I solicited the help of Richard Gardner, Sportsbook Manager for Bodog, an online gaming giant and trusted source for information and odds for major sporting, cultural and entertainment events all over the world (

Sorry Lauren fans, but Bodog has Scotty as a 1:5 favorite, with Lauren trailing in 3:1 odds of winning the Idol Title.  So, here were my Questions and Answers with Richard. 

Q:  I’ve seen the Bodog odds on who will win and they look like a landslide to me. In your expert opinion, what do you feel is driving the dramatic spread between the two hopefuls, given that both contestants appeal to the Country Music demographic and to younger voters?

Richard -“Scotty is a clear favorite here at 1/5 and has been very consistent and likeable which is important in a contest that is voted upon by the public while Lauren has been in the bottom 2 or 3 quite often near the end of the season and lacks some confidence.  What also plays into him being such a heavy favorite is that most likely when James Durbin was eliminated the majority of his votes went to Scotty.  But if we have learned anything in the history of this show is that the favorite does not always win and would not be surprised if Lauren won even as a significant underdog.”

Q: This is the first finale I can remember where the final Idol wannabe's are so alike in terms of music genre and style. How do you think this will impact viewership and number of votes?  Do the odds makers weigh in on those data points, or just on choosing the winner?

Richard -“I don't think it will really affect anything too much, the finale is the finale and will surely be watched by everyone who has been watching the show all season and then some.  However, when doing odds on something like this predicting how the public will vote is much more important than what the judges say or how we think they actually did in their performances.”

Q: Idol ratings and voting was slightly down last season and there has been much brouhaha over the new judges and re-energizing of the Idol brand this year.  What changes have you seen this season in level of interest as it relates to the sportsbook?

Richard -“By far the biggest bet event this Season in my experience in this business as far as entertainment betting, and I agree that it is correlated to the raise in the viewers and voting.”

Interesting, so the Pros have Scotty taking home the title in a landslide, but leave the door open for an upset.  They confirm that the casting and production changes made this year have driven more money to voting, as I suspected from this year’s ratings.

So what will we see on Tuesday night?  Each of the singers will get to perform three songs.  First, they’ll sing a tune of their own choosing.  Next, Simon Fuller, the show’s creator, will weigh in and select a song for each Idol.  Finally, the Finalists will sing the newly created Idol songwriter’s number, which will be released as the winner’s first single.   It should be a great night, although it may sound a bit more like The Next Nashville Star, than American Idol, given the country orientation of both of this year’s finalists.

For me, I’ll say that I think both of the contestants are likeable, talented and wholesome American kids.  Neither were my favorite to be sure, but I only voted a few times.  As of now, I believe Scotty will win, but I’m sure they’ll both have successful Nashville careers, no matter how it all goes down.   The finale performances always have a few surprises though and certainly the producers can manipulate us a bit with song choices, so it is not over until it’s over.  Be sure to watch it all unfold on Fox!

Photo: Newsday.

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