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‘American Idol’ Reboot at NBC? Here’s Why Fox Wasn’t Interested in Bringing It Back So Soon

Discussions about the show's return are taking place less than a year after its "Farewell Season."

Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez, Harry Connick, Jr, Ryan Seacrest, Randy Jackson

Jim Smeal/BEI/BEI/Shutterstock

NBC’s decision to kick the tires on “American Idol,” less than a year after the show was originally retired, comes after Fox balked at the idea of bringing it back this fast.

Fox TV Group chairman Gary Newman confirmed to IndieWire last month that the network has held preliminary conversations with “Idol” producer FremantleMedia about reviving the franchise.

“[Fremantle] came to us and asked if we should resurrect the show and bring it back to television as is,” Newman said. “To us, that didn’t make sense. We didn’t call it the ‘last’ season as a marketing ploy. That’s what we perceived it as. Our credibility with the audience is important. We felt bringing it back quickly, particularly in the same form didn’t make sense.”

According to insiders, any discussions between FremantleMedia and NBC are still in the supremely early stage. Also, it appears that “Idol” creator Simon Fuller, whose contractual arrangement with Core Media (which bought Fuller’s 19 Entertainment in 2010) was terminated last year, is not involved in the talks.

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“Idol,” of course, was a monster hit for Fox in its prime, before its ratings fell back to earth in the show’s final seasons. Fox ended the show’s run last April to much fanfare – and with the branding “American Idol: The Farewell Season.”

“‘Idol’ hasn’t been off the air for that long,” Newman said. “It was on the air in the 2015-2016 TV season. We’re only in the 2016-2017 season right now. We had a great final season. I thought we all agreed that the campaign for the final season was smart, it resonated, people didn’t want to miss it. I think that bringing shows back is difficult, particularly when you made a big deal about announcing it as a final season.”

But Newman, who spoke to us at the Television Critics Association press tour, said he hoped that the show would indeed return to Fox at some point after a proper resting period.

“American Idol”

Fox

“I think the DNA of ‘American Idol’ is Fox,” he said. “It feels as if some point in the future it’s going to come back on air, it should come back on Fox. That would be the expectation of the public, and I think another network would have a pretty big hurdle in getting people to identify it with their network.”

FremantleMedia is believed to have been interested in rebooting “Idol” from almost the moment the show ended. The production company first approached Fox about a revival last year, but insiders at the time wondered if that move was motivated by a desire to clear the rights. FremantleMedia and Fox had an exclusive negotiating period for an “Idol” revival, but the production company may say that Fox’s lack of interest in discussing a new deal last year gave them the go ahead to take the show to another network.

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At meetings held last year among the interested “Idol” parties, discussions revolved around finding a time frame to mount a marketing initiative that would keep “Idol” alive, via social media or spots on a platform like Hulu.

Why would NBC be interested in “Idol”? Some reports suggested that the Peacock Network might want to reduce “The Voice” to just one cycle a year, and instead implement a 52-week talent show strategy that flows from “Idol” to “America’s Got Talent” to “The Voice.” Another theory: NBC might want to keep “Idol” off the table before another network grabs it and mounts a challenge to “The Voice,” which now reigns supreme as TV’s top competition show. Variety first broke news Thursday morning of NBC’s interest.

It’s never been in doubt that FremantleMedia would find a way to revive “Idol.” At a TV Critics press tour last year, one of the show’s stars noted that it was dubbed a “Farewell Season,” not a “Final Season.” And host Ryan Seacrest also hinted at a return: “When you’ve got a franchise that has this kind of heritage and you’ve got a franchise that generates X amount of millions of people if it sustains, does that mean it’s the end? I’m not so sure.”

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