How 'American Idol' Will Make Money Off Facebook

Frank Micelotta/FOX

In partnership with Cameo Stars, which sells celebrity virtual goods, the show will allow users of the social network to spend $1 to send video messages recorded by the 10 "Idol" finalists.

NEW YORK – American Idol is looking to make some money off Facebook and further connect with fans.

Starting Friday, users of the social network can spend $1 to send video messages recorded by the 10 finalists of the show in a partnership with Cameo Stars, which offers celebrity virtual goods, the New York Times reported.

The deal comes as consumers have been willing to spend real money on virtual goods in virtual worlds or social games. Global spending on such virtual goods reached $7.3 billion in 2010 and is projected to more than double by 2014, the Times said, quoting data from research firm In-Stat.

The deal is also the latest attempt by an entertainment company to look for ways to make some incremental revenue off Facebook. Warner Bros. recently announced a film rental trial with the social networking site.

Cameo Stars’ work with Idol, which has more than five million Facebook followers or fans, will feature contestants sending birthday wishes or a Facebook “poke” in videos filmed in front of a green screen, the Times reported. Since the videos are not embedded in a video player, the Idol stars appear to speak directly from Facebook profile pages. Marketers have been looking for ways to go beyond ad messages on the sides of Facebook pages.

“There is a feeling that it’s customized for you because it’s being delivered to you on your own page and because a character is walking toward you and talking toward the camera,” Olivier Delfosse, vp for interactive at FremantleMedia Enterprises, which co-produces Idol in the U.S., told the Times. He said the licensing deal behind the new offer boosts brand value and allows Idol to make money. Only time will tell how much.

To boost usage of the application and awareness for their brands, the two partners are also running a sweepstakes for a pair of tickets to the Idol season finale, with users increasing their chance to win every time they purchase a video, according to the Times.

Cameo Stars CEO Daren Hornig said neither party of the deal pays the other, but both get a cut of the revenue. He didn’t detail the revenue split.

The partners hope to bring an advertiser into the mix that would finance the videos to allow Facebook users to send them for free while being prominently featured on the Cameo Stars page when users send videos, the Times reported.

Cameo Stars has been moving into marketing deals, such as one for DreamWorks Animation’s Kung Fu Panda 2, which has allowed users to send free messages, according to the paper.

Celebrities are also benefiting from participating. Video greetings offered by the company include messages from the likes of Kim Kardashian and Carmen Electra, and the stars receive commissions on purchases, according to the Times.