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'American Idol' Food Fight: Craft Services Budget Crackdown

The singing competition's ratings are taking a beating, with backstage snacks a casualty of declining ad rates.

American Idol season 12 rock results judges L
Michael Becker / Fox

This story first appeared in the April 26 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

American Idol has taken a beating for its slumping ratings, down 18 percent compared with last year, and those diminishing ad rates seem to be having a ripple effect -- all the way to the craft-services table.

PHOTOS: An 'American Idol' to 'X Factor' Timeline

In early March, when season 12 went live from Stage 36 at CBS Television City, crewmembers looking to snack were surprised to find a 25-cent fee attached to once-free edibles such as cookies and cottage cheese. By month's end, the price even went up -- to $1.

"It's so bizarre," says one show insider. "What's next, pay toilets?" In an ironic twist, the food in the press room, which Idol only began serving in 2011 after spare-no-expense The X Factor impressed journalists with its spread, has been getting better. But all that coddling doesn’t seem to be helping, since it’s those very outlets ragging on the series.

VIDEO: 'American Idol' Season 12: Top 10 Finalist Red Carpet Interviews

For its part, a rep for FremantleMedia, Idol's production company, tells THR that free goodies remain in a tent located in the parking lot, but for those seeking a quicker food fix, "The snack area on the stage is something additional."

Adds the source: “Only at Idol, kids.”

Twitter: @Idol_Worship