“We were offered American Idol at the time, we looked at it,” Les Moonves revealed with some glee this morning during the CBS Upfronts breakfast, It was a deal to take in the returning reality competition show that the network obviously declined, as the FremantleMedia North America-produced former Fox blockbuster is now parked at ABC.
“We did look at it, we looked at it very seriously, the economics just made absolutely no sense for us,” the CBS Corp chairman and CEO said today.
Stressing that he wasn’t “trying to knock ABC,” Moonves went on to say “for a couple of reasons we didn’t like” the prospect of Idol, which wrapped a much hyped final cycle after 15 seasons on Fox in mid-2015. “Number one, the price is so expensive, you need a 35 share to break even,” Moonves explained of the bottom-line consideration. “So, that’s not going to happen.”
“Number two …the backend of these shows is becoming more important or as important as the front end,” he added, hitting a business theme that pervaded Wednesday’s annual CBS breakfast chat. “We think that we are in a much stronger position that we wouldn’t want to take four hours of our schedule that we wouldn’t have any piece of selling any backend.” CBS’ schedule already has unscripted heavyweights like Survivor and Big Brother.
Earlier this week, Fox’s Dana Walden admitted they had considered bringing Idol back for the 2020 season. “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 said, noting that Fox had put in an offer but only with some financial cuts to the pricey show and to air it in a few years. FremantleMedia declined and shopped the show to NBC, CBS and eventual home ABC, where Idol will air midseason with Katy Perry as one of its new judges.
“Economically you have to look at things very differently that just a few short years ago,” Moonves summed up.
The last of the Big 4 to take the stage in front of advertisers this year, CBS will give its Upfronts presentation at NYC’s Carnegie Hall this afternoon.