Idol producer FreemantleMedia North America and creator Simon Fuller started pitching a new installment even before the series had wrapped its final season in April. There were feelers sent out last summer, and Fox, which had a first negotiation right, was pitched. I hear the producers offered the same format for the show at the high price point at the end of its run, making it a tough proposition for the network, which felt it was too soon to bring Idol back without significant reinvention. On and off conversations with ABC didn’t go anywhere, and more recently, the production company engaged in talks with NBC for reviving Idol.
There is no deal in place, and conversations — first reported by Variety — are underway, but sources indicate there is a real possibility for a new season of Idol to launch on NBC next season, bringing the three biggest talent competition series of the past decade — Idol, The Voice and America’s Got Talent — under one roof.
NBC has a major deal with original Idol judge and AGT creator, executive producer and judge Simon Cowell, which would help get him on the show where he became a breakout star and one of Idol‘s biggest draws. Also currently under a deal at NBC is one of the judges from Idol’s final seasons, Jennifer Lopez. She stars on the network’s drama Shades of Blue.
Adding Idol also would give NBC the option to go down from two to one installment of The Voice per season — something that the producers had been looking for in order to prolong the show’s life and stem ratings erosion and possible fatigue — with a different talent competition on the network in fall, spring and summer.
Still, Idol comes with baggage. A ratings uptick in the final stretch notwithstanding, the series was on a decline for the second half of its run to a point where the ratings were hard to justify the big production costs. Getting Idol at a reasonable price is likely to be a key point for NBC in the negotiations — and possibly taking a stake in the series as NBC has been pushing for ownership of its reality shows with the launch of its alternative production studio.
“Thank you for bringing the show back in 2018,” Fuller quipped at the Creative Arts Emmy Awards in September, addressing his comment to Fox TV Group chairman and CEO Dana Walden. “We can’t wait to make it.”
Fox had said it was not interested in bringing Idol back so quickly. At TCA in January, Fox TV Group chairman Gary Newman told Deadline that the network felt it was too soon to think about an Idol revival because of an obligation to the fans who were asked to tune in for the last season last year because it was a goodbye.
Still, Fuller might have been half-right. “See you in 2018!” he told the audience as he left the Creative Emmys stage. He may have been off on the network but right on the timing.