I have to admit, I've never really watched a full episode of American Idol. My exposure to the show is pretty much limited to a couple of minutes here and a few minutes there for the most part (although I did watch a decent chunk of an episode or two last year because I was fascinated by Taylor Hicks, because of an incorrect initial impression that he was a very old contestant).

And I honestly didn't think that the talent extravaganza owned by CKX (NASDAQ:CKXE) -- the same business which is betting on Elvis Presley to help drive future shareholder returns -- would serve News Corp.'s (NYSE:NWS) Fox broadcaster so well for so long. But it has, and I was wrong -- Idol had, in my mind, the makings of a fad. The fickle youthful audience would grow weary of watching more than one night a week of contestants doing their best to showcase their talents while projecting a least-offensive, all-American image, I thought. In fact, Idol has continued to grow, becoming a solid, upstanding member of the entertainment zeitgeist. Now it has ambitions to introduce, according to an AP article, a new element this season -- a competition for songwriters. The idea is to match the winning song with the winning idol.

What's cool about this concept is that it doesn't feel like a jump-the-shark moment -- indeed, stakeholders of both CKX and News Corp. hope this franchise never pulls a Fonzie. Although the main focus of Idol will always be the potential idols themselves, I think a side contest makes a lot of creative sense. For one thing, it will fit nicely -- after all, singers do need songs. For another thing, it adds variety to the show's DNA without causing any radical mutations. In addition, it allows the franchise to experiment with ideas that might be useful for other projects -- could an American Songwriter idea work?

That might be thinking too far ahead, considering that the exact mechanism and details of the extra competition have yet to be finalized; it's also been reported that it might not actually take place until later in the season, and may involve making some of the song submissions available for viewer scrutiny on the program's website. Nevertheless, News Corp. will have a lot to look forward to this year in its eternal quest to effectively compete with CBS (NYSE:CBS), Disney's (NYSE:DIS) ABC, and General Electric's (NYSE:GE) NBC -- Idol will certainly garner a lot of interest over this new wrinkle. Anything to keep this cash cow going is welcome; some sources indicate that the show might bring in $500 million in advertising revenues. ABC probably still rues the day that, as Rick Munarriz mentioned a while back, it passed on the program. Heck, as a Disney shareholder, I rue that day.

It's anybody's guess as to when American Idol will finally run its course, but it experienced double-digit ratings growth last year, and it seems to have a lot of momentum behind it. A songwriting competition may add a further dimension of success to this already monumental television achievement. News Corp.'s Fox asset will benefit from the antics of Simon, Paula, and Randy over the next five months -- and who knows, maybe I'll sit down to watch a full episode for once.

Past Foolish fun with American Idol:

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Fool contributor Steven Mallas owns shares of Disney and General Electric. As of this writing, he was ranked 3,376 out of 19,864 investors in the CAPS system. Don't know what CAPS is? Check it out. The Fool has a disclosure policy.