April 18, 2006 -- Even without Bucky Covington, "American Idol" is rolling in bucks.
A 30-second spot on the season finale is expected to command $1.3 million, and it's another sign that the show has become a cultural phenomenon.
"Just to give you a comparison point, 'Everybody Loves Raymond' was the big finale that everybody was tuning into last year around the same time, and that was commanding $1.22 million," Claire Atkinson of trade magazine Advertising Age said to ABC News Radio.
While "Idol" isn't setting records, Atkinson says it's a strong statement about the show's growing popularity. The most expensive regularly scheduled TV show was the final episode of "Friends" in 2004, with advertisers paying $2 million for a 30-second spot.
"Nothing has come close since," Atkinson said.
Final Episodes Good for Business
Final episodes have traditionally been TV events. "Idol" is hitting new highs, however, even though the show was recently renewed for three additional years.
"Just to compare it, the Super Bowl ads went for $2.4 [million], $2.5 million," Atkinson said, "so it's not the Oscars, it's not the Super Bowl. But $1.3 million is a big chunk of change for Fox."
While "Idol" big finale ads are estimated to be this season's most expensive, they won't be the only ones commanding a pretty penny. NBC will supply major TV events with the finale episode of landmark series "Will & Grace" and "The West Wing."
ABC is expected to make top dollar with the season enders for "Lost," "Grey's Anatomy" and "Desperate Housewives."
With Covington booted, the seven remaining "American Idol" contestants return tonight to take on Rod Stewart's "American Songbook."
Last year's winner, Carrie Underwood, tells ABC News Radio that the next "Idol" will be a man:
"I don't really have any favorites, but I think a guy's probably going to take it home," Underwood said. "It's because the guys have a huge fan base, and there are three or four guys that just blow everybody away consistently."
ABC News Radio's David Blaustein and ABCNEWS.com's Buck Wolf contributed to this report.