This … is American Idol, on a new network.
The singing competition, which set ratings records over a storied 15-year run on Fox but was canceled last spring, is being resurrected on ABC.
The Disney-owned network confirmed the news early Tuesday, providing no details about judges, a host, timing or the duration of the series, though it’s been speculated that a shortened season will begin next spring on Sunday nights. The show’s previous seasons, about 20 weeks each, stretched from mid-January to mid-May.
TMZ first reported Idol producers FremantleMedia and 19 Entertainment’s talks with ABC after earlier discussions with NBC ended.
As for who might be back?
TMZ says Ryan Seacrest, who joined the Disney family only last week as the new co-host of Live with Kelly!, “seems interested” in returning as host, though Seacrest Monday played coy on Live!, saying, “I don’t know if I can host it.”
If the show remains in Los Angeles, as expected, Seacrest would have to jet back and forth each week during live Idol episodes. But Live!’s previous co-host, Michael Strahan, did the same thing each week during NFL season, when he moonlighted as a host of Fox NFL Sunday in Los Angeles, though the weekend gig didn’t pose as direct a conflict.
Simon Cowell, the judge who vaulted the show to fame, is now executive producer and a judge on NBC’s America’s Got Talent. NBC is also the new network home of fellow judge Jennifer Lopez, who has a major deal to produce and star in a new reality-competition series, World of Dance (premiering May 30) in addition to her current detective drama Shades of Blue.
Idol was the top-rated show for eight seasons of its run, peaking in its fifth with an average of more than 30 million viewers (and 36 million for its May performance finale). But by the end of its run, Idol drew only about one-third of that audience, even as the show’s expenses — some judges were paid $15 million a season — skyrocketed. Fox announced a planned final season in 2015, and the show ended its run only last May, after NBC’s The Voice had eclipsed it.
While ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey, in a statement, called Idol “a pop-culture staple that left the air too soon,” former executive producer Nigel Lythgoe expressed skepticism about the speedy return, telling Variety, “it feels a little too soon to bring it back.” But ABC has been struggling on Sundays with dramas, ranks fourth among the major networks and with no NFL contract, can sorely use another reality hit. And all of the networks have struggled in recent attempts to launch new unscripted hits; NBC’s Little Big Shots,which started strongly, already has faded in its second season.
Although ABC found success adapting two other British reality hits, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire and Dancing with the Stars, it has failed in several attempts to clone Idol. Among the notorious bombs were The One: Making a Music Star, a costly summer series that opened with 3 million viewers and was canceled after two weeks in 2006; and Rising Star,which aired in 2014 and featured contestants singing behind partitions. But Idol has a built-in (if faded) fan base, and the reboot will likely be heavily promoted during ABC’s Oscar telecast, typically the highest-rated entertainment program each year. Except for that time Idol beat it.