The saga of getting American Idol back on TV is over, with ABC officially closing a deal with FremantleMedia North America and CORE Media Group’s 19 Entertainment for a revival of the singing competition series. The network just announced that American Idol will return for the 2017-2018 season, two seasons after the series ended its 15-season run on Fox in April 2016. A host and judges will be announced at a later time, with Ryan Seacrest rumored to return as host and first Idol winner Kelly Clarkson eyed as a judge. The new season of Idol is said to consist of about 40 hours.
Promising a “bigger, bolder and better-than-ever Idol,” Ben Sherwood, co-chairman, Disney Media Networks and President, Disney|ABC, mused, “American Idol on ABC… that has a nice ring to it. Idol is an entertainment icon, and now it will air where it belongs, in ABC’s lineup of addictive fan favorites alongside Dancing With The Stars and The Bachelor.”
Channing Dungey, President, ABC Entertainment, took a subtle jab at Fox for ending the show. “American Idol is a pop-culture staple that left the air too soon,” she said. “ABC is the right home to reignite the fan base. We are thrilled viewers will once again share in these inspiring stories of people realizing their dreams.”
FremantleMedia Group CEO Cecile Frot-Coutaz, who oversaw and executive produced the Fox run of Idol as CEO of FMNA, praised ABC’s “passion and enthusiasm” for the show amid competitive bidding, while CMG CEO Peter Hurwitz referenced the extensive media coverage of the negotiations. “All of the intense speculation surrounding the comeback of American Idol demonstrates just how popular and powerful this brand remains,” he said.
Idol producers FMNA and CMG/19 Entertainment and creator Simon Fuller started talking about a new installment even before the series had wrapped its final season in April 2016. There were feelers sent out last summer, and Fox, which had a first negotiation right, was pitched. I hear the producers back then 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. Next, there were on-and-off conversations with ABC. NBC then engaged in negotiations with the production companies about reviving Idol, and Fox soon jumped back into the fray. Then recently, in the run-up to a potential writers strike, ABC engaged FMNA and CMG. The two sides were near the finish line when Fox came back with a serious offer, but the deal ultimately closed at ABC.
ABC has in the extended corporate family Idol host Ryan Seacrest, who just was named co-host and executive producer of the syndicated Live With Kelly & Ryan, produced by WABC-TV and distributed by Disney/ABC. We hear Seacrest, who is now based in New York, had not been part of the Idol negotiations and had not been formally approached about possible involvement in the proposed Idol revival before the deal was made. He is currently focused on Live and his daily radio show, but has expressed publicly his affection for the TV show that made him a star, so he is said to be open to it if scheduling permits.
ABC has tried unsuccessfully to launch a music competition series with a number of shows including Duets and Rising Star.
American Idol was a phenomenon when it debuted and was the highest-rated series on television for nearly a decade.