Australian Idol is the Australian version of the British hit show Pop Idol. It is a talent contest to find a pop performer and is hosted by Andrew G and James Mathison. The first series started on July 27th, 2003, and finished on November 19. The winner was Guy Sebastian, with runners up Shannon Noll (2nd) and Cosima De Vito (3rd). The 2004 season saw Casey Donovan win ahead of Anthony Callea (2nd) and Courtney Murphy (3rd)
The panel of judges for the Australian show were Mark Holden, a former pop star and now music producer, Marcia Hines, soul singer, and Ian "Dicko" Dickson, marketing manager of BMG Australia.
First series (2003)
Australian Idol was produced by Fremantle Media subsidiary Grundy Television in association with UK company 19TV. The first series was broadcast on Network Ten for 19 weeks in the latter half of 2003.
Australian Idol quickly became one of the most popular shows on Australian television, the final between Guy Sebastian and Shannon Noll being the most popular show broadcast on Australian television in 2003. Channel Ten paid $15 million for the series but this investment was repaid when the station that had perenially been the #3 network became the #2 network towards the end of 2003 and cemented the network as the #1 station in its target demographic, the under 40's. This success meant that the station could charge advertisers more for commercials broadcast on the network.
The success of the series prompted the Seven Network to commission a rival series Popstars Live in the first half of 2004. However, this series was not a success. The success of Australian Idol and the first series of The Block on the Nine Network prompted networks including the Ten Network to invest in new reality series that were not as successful, such as The Resort and The Hothouse, which led to large losses by the relevant network.
Second series (2004)
The second series of Australian Idol debuted on July 13, 2004. The level of success of the contestants in the first series has lured over 50 000 people throughout Australia to audition.
As well as the five larger cities, the judges also visited Canberra, Hobart, Darwin and Tamworth this year. Of the twelve finalists, three were from Sydney, two were from Melbourne, and one each from Brisbane, the Gold Coast, Hobart, Perth, Canberra, Adelaide and Bega.
The winner was Casey Donovan. Telstra, a major sponsor of the series, made an embarrassing error when they issued a series of half-page advertisements in major newspapers congratulating Donovan on her victory, and linking to her website. However, the address was incorrect, leading to a website about gay porn star Casey Donovan, rather than the singer's. The company issued a prompt apology upon realising their mistake.  (http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2004/11/22/1100972298598.html)
The success of Australian Idol has been reflected on the Australian charts with a finalists album and four contestant albums all enjoying considerable success so far with the finalists of the second series to release debut albums within a few months.
So far, the albums released or due to be released shortly are:
- reached #3 on the charts and achieved double platinum status;
- Just as I am, the debut album by winner Guy Sebastian debuted at #1 in December 2003 and has achieved 6x platinum status or sales of 500,000, and his second album Beautiful Life debuted at #2 in October 2004 and has so far achieved platinum status (behind Robbie Williams' Greatest Hits);
- That's What I'm Talking About by runner-up Shannon Noll debuted at #1 in early 2004 and has achieved 5x platinum status, selling 350,000 albums; and
- Up All Night by finalist Rob Mills debuted in the Australian top 30 of the album charts in late June;
- One Determined Heart by finalist Paulini Curuenavuli was released in late July on Sony Music and debuted at #1 in the album charts after the success of the first single (see below), achieving gold status. A Christmas album full of carols, called was also recorded and released by her in December 2004, reaching the top 100;
- Cosima by finalist Cosima De Vito debuted at #2 in the albums in October 2004, so far achieving gold status (behind Maroon 5's Songs about Jane); and
- Hinesight, a covers album by Idol judge Marcia Hines has also reached the top 20 in September 2004.
- Joel Turner and The Modern Day Poets, the self-titled album from "unforgettable" contestant and beatboxer Joel Turner with The Modern Day Poets reached the top 30 in November 2004.
- For You, Casey Donovan's debut album, debuted at #2 in December 2004, behind Robbie Williams' Greatest Hits.
- Cast Album Australian Idol Final 10, an album by the 10 finalists of the second series made the top 20 in February 2005.
- Anthony Callea's debut album, to be released in early 2005.
In total, Australian Idol contestants have sold approximately a million albums in Australia since November 2003. BMG who signed up the two original finalists have presented Guy Sebastian with a royalty cheque for a million dollars in July 2004, with Shannon Noll also receiving a similar later in the year.  (http://entertainment.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,4459,10096788%255E10431%255E%255Enbv,00.html/2)
As of November 2004, Australian Idol contestants have enjoyed twenty-three top 40 hits in Australia since November 2003:
- "Rise Up" by the Final 12 reached #1 in November 2003;
- Guy Sebastian has had three #1 singles in Australia ("Angels Brought Me Here" and "All I Need is You" from his debut album; "Out with my Baby" from his second album, so far achieving platinum status), and also a top 20 single with "Kryptonite" (from his second album);
- Shannon Noll has had two #1 hits with "What About Me?", a cover of the Moving Pictures (also a #1 from 1982) and "Learn to Fly", and a top 5 hit with "Drive", as well as being part of the Dreamtime Christmas All-Stars (also featuring Cosima De Vito, Rob Mills), to record "Twelve Days of Christmas", which reached the top 30 in December 2004, and a new song "Come On Aussie, Come On" reaching #2 in the same month;
- Cosima De Vito's debut single "When The War Is Over", a cover of the ballad by Cold Chisel, debuted at #1 in the charts on August 16, achieving gold status, as well being part of the Dreamtime Christmas All-Stars (also featuring Shannon Noll, Rob Mills), to record "Twelve Days of Christmas", which reached the top 30 in December 2004, and a second solo single, "Now That You Can't Have Me", reaching the top 50 in the same month;
- Paulini Curuenavuli's first single "Angel Eyes", a cover of the John Hiatt song made famous in 1989 by Jeff Healey, debuted at #2 in the charts on 12 July 2004 behind "Learn to Fly", and officially reaching #1 the week after, achieving platinum status, as having a second single "We can Try" reaching the top 30 in October 2004;
- Rob Mills reached the top ten in late May 2004 with "Ms Vanity", and also reached the top 30 in August 2004 with a second single "Every Single Day"; Rob was also part of the Dreamtime Christmas All-Stars (along with Shannon Noll and Cosima De Vito), who recorded "Twelve Days of Christmas", which reached the top 30 in December 2004,;
- Finalist Levi Kereama enjoyed top 20 success as a member of Lethbridge with the single "In My Room" in May 2004. He then released another single credited to him featuring Lethbridge, called "Handcuffs Off", reaching the top 40 in January 2005;
- Semi-finalist Courtney Act enjoyed a top 40 hit with "Rub Me Wrong" in March 2004;
- Joel Turner also reached #1 with The Modern Day Poets on the single "These Kids" in November 2004, so far achieving platinum status. They also had a second single called "Knock U Out!" (featuring champion boxer Anthony "The Man" Mundine), using the beats of "Eye of The Tiger", made famous by the Rocky movie. The single was released in January 2005, and debuted in the top 20 in February 2005;
- Casey Donovan debuted at #1 with her debut single, "Listen With Your Heart" in November 2004, so far achieving double platinum status; and
- Anthony Callea debuted at #1 in December 2004 with his debut single "The Prayer", a cover of the version by Carole Bayer Sager, also made famous by Andrea Bocelli and Celine Dion, so far achieving quadruple platinum status.
- "Good Times", a song originally by The Easybeats, made famous with a cover by Jimmy Barnes and INXS, was covered by the Final 10 of the second serious of Idol and it charted in the top 60 in February 2005.
The strength of the success of Australian Idol contestants in the charts was shown when Shannon Noll's single "Learn to Fly" debuted at #1 ahead of "Angel Eyes" by Paulini Curuenavuli at #2 on the Australian singles charts of July 12, 2004. Paulini's single even climbed up to #1 the week after this.