“We had conversations about bringing it back in ’20,” Fox’s Dana Walden revealed today about a possible return of American Idol to the network. “We saw  as being a respectful amount of time for rebooting Idol for fans,” the chairman and CEO added this morning as Fox announced its 2017-2018 primetime schedule – the second one not to not contain the once-blockbuster Idol since 2002.
Amidst a final burst after years of declining ratings, American Idol ended what was heavily promoted as its 15th and final season on April 7 last year.
With an official announcement on Good Morning America last week, ABC struck a deal with producers FremantleMedia North America and CORE Media Group’s 19 Entertainment to relaunch Idol this upcoming season, a fact Walden openly lamented on the day of Fox’s Upfront presentation to advertisers. “It’s obviously a tough one for us,” the exec said. “It feels bad knowing it’s coming back on another network.”
“We thought it was too early to bring the show back,” she noted of talks with a seemingly impatient FremantleMedia soon after Idol wrapped its much-hyped and $25 million-promoted last season. “We did not see the fans’ enthusiasm to bringing the show back that Fremantle did,” she said Monday, noting that the network was “losing a significant amount of money” on the show in its latter seasons as the ratings declined double-digits but costs like judge’s salaries were high.
“We sat down with Fremantle just a month or two after it ended and they were determined to get it back on the air,” Walden admitted. “It felt to us sitting in those meetings with Fremantle that it would be extremely fraudulent to bring it back right away.”
The exec did make clear that Fox had put in an offer for a rebooted Idol that could see the light of primetime in a few years, but the producers saw a faster track to getting back on TV. “They wanted it back on the air and they thought ABC was a good opportunity,” Walden said, noting though that NBC would have been a good place for a new Idol as well due to the Comcast-owned net’s relationship with former Idol judge and America’s Got Talent creator/ judge Simon Cowell. “Kind of made sense to us,” Walden said during a conference call this morning.
Now set to run on the Disney-owned net, the new Idol could see a post-Oscars launch next year, as my colleague Nellie Andreeva reported Sunday. Longtime Idol host Ryan Seacrest, who became the permanent co-host of Live With Kelly And Ryan earlier this month, is in talks to return to the musical competition show.