The whole world goes pop

A look at 'Idol's' performance internationally

GERMANY

In Germany, the local “Idol” — “Deutschland sucht den Superstar” — is an all-around in-house winner for media giant Bertelsmann and its entertainment division RTL Group, which owns both German web RTL Television and format producer Fremantle.

In March, the thirds season finale drew an impressive 7.3 million viewers and a market share of 44.2%.

“Superstar” winners Alexander Klaws, Elli Erl and Tobias Regner are under contract at Sony BMG.

Even Bertelsmann’s marketing and publishing subsidiary Medienfabrik has gotten into the act with its “Deutschland sucht den Superstar” fan magazine.

— Ed Meza

ITALY

Talent show “Amici” (Friends) has been making a killing for Silvio Berlusconi’s Mediaset channels since 2001.

The “Amici” format is copyrighted by the show’s host, Maria De Filippi, but is very similar to the “OT” academy.

A class of 28 aspiring “idols” take singing, dancing and acting classes in a talent academy on the Cinecitta lot, across from the “Big Brother” house.

The “Amici” series ended in March scored a whopping 35% share on Mediaset’s flagship Canale 5.

“Amici” also aired 24/7on Sky, and via Telecom Italia’s web-portal Rossoalice. Show has developed a lucrative legit side by establishing a tie-in with “Footloose,” the musical, which stars several of the “Amici” contestants. “Footloose” was Italy’s top legit event last year.

Against this, attemps to launch “Idol’s” original format have failed.

In 2002 Grundy acquired Italian rights to “Idol” and never bowed it because Grundy was unable to sell the show to pubcaster RAI, Mediaset’s main competitor.

— Nick Vivarelli

UNITED KINGDOM

“Pop Idol” bowed on ITV1 in 2001 where, fuelled by extensive press coverage, it became a breakout hit.

The final of the debut won 14 million viewers and a 57% audience share.

As around nine million voted in the final, the bulk of them using premium rate phone calls, “Pop Idol,” won by Will Young, was a cash cow for ITV.

The broadcaster is understood to have pocketed around 80% of every call, the remainder going to FremantleMedia and the phone companies.

The second series also scored, but ITV replaced it with talent reality show, “X Factor,” created by “Pop Idol’s” Mr. Nasty Simon Cowell.

“Pop Idol” creator Simon Fuller sued Cowell, his erstwhile business partner, who claimed “X Factor” was a rip off of “Pop Idol.”

The case was settled out of court in a deal which gave Fuller a stake in “X Factor” as the format’s joint partner.

— Steve Clarke

AUSTRALIA

Seven Network’s “Popstars” (based on Essential Prods.’ “Popstars” in New Zealand, which aired in 1999), was a solid ratings hit for Screentime Prods. in Oz from 2000-2003.

Skein was backed by Warner Bros. Music and created pop bands like Scandal’Us and Bardot.

This has not dulled enthusiasm for Ten Network’s “Australian Idol,” which drew 3.3 million eyeballs in 2003 when Guy Sebastian won the inaugural title.

Legion Interactive — that managers the voting for producer Grundy Television and Ten — will not talk figures but estimates suggest Australians spent $3 million to $4 million on finals voting alone last year, a pot divided up between Legion, the telcos and Ten.

Ten is also a major winner with reports the web takes $19 million in TV advertising for the annual “Idol” series.

“It is a show that spreads its success very wide,” says Ten’s Tim Clucas.

Music conglom Sony BMG raked in $17 million from “Idol” series one and as of April this year, “Idol” contestants have sold a million albums Down Under.

Subsequent “Idols” have not fared as well. This plunge led to rumors the 2006 contest would be axed but Ten is bullish.

“When a shows comes off its highs like ‘Idol’ — and the highs are so high — where it lands is still extraordinary territory by any definition and it is a result that our rival networks would love to have,” says Clucas.

— Paul Chai

NORTH EAST ASIA

An Internet rumor last year suggesting that North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il was such a big fan of “American Idol” that he was applying to be on the show turned out to be untrue.

Presumably Kim has a private satellite link as, no surprise, the show does not air in despotic North Korea or in the democratic South. And it has only recently started in neighboring Japan.

North-East Asia is one corner of the world where the hit show has failed to score well for Fremantle Intl. Distribution.

Company secured a Japanese deal in October for “American Idol” with Fox’s sister company Fox Japan, which has cable and satellite, not free-to-air carriage, and as part of a wider package of music programming.

Japan has a long tradition of homegrown reality shows many of which have evolved far beyond something as tame as talent shows. FID says it is still hopeful about a format sale giving rise to “Japan Idol,” but others are not holding their breath.

— Patrick Frater

RUSSIA

The Russian “Idol” offshoot couldn’t have a grander title, “Narodniy Artist” or national artist, the moniker that artistic figures receive as recognition of their cultural careers.

The three-year-old show runs in primetime on Saturday on pubcaster Rossiya, against virtually direct competish from rival main station Channel 1’s “Star Factory.”  

Ratings and ancillary revenue aren’t stellar. Ratings for “Artist’s” most recent show was around a 16% share on a 4.3% rating.     

Media tie-ins and with other channels — including a publicity link with music channel Muz-TV — may bring results, but winners haven’t moved into high-profile careers.

In fact, first series victor Alexei Goman is shortly beginning his military service.

— Tom Birchenough

MIDEAST

The Mideast version of Fremantle’s blockbusting format has broken boundaries and brought people together.

“Superstar,” aired on Lebanese satcaster Future TV, is set to start its fourth hugely successful season.

The first pan-regional “Idol,” with hopefuls from across the Arab world, helped build bridges in2003 in a region often divided by local rivalries and violence.

At one time, the show boasted a 98% market share in its native Lebanon and a 50% share in Saudi Arabia, the most profitable ad market in the Mideast.

The final program of the first series saw a total of 4.8 million SMS votes cast, with Jordanian singer Diana Karzon emerging victorious, helped no doubt by the King of Jordan’s decision to declare free phone votes for Jordanians calling and texting in to the show.

Thousands of Jordanians took to the streets to celebrate her win, while neighboring Lebanon saw angry followers of a rival contestant demonstrate outside Future’s Beirut HQ.

The third series, aired last year, was delayed after the murder of former Lebanese premier, and Future founder, Rafik Hariri, while a further delay hit the show after the killing of popular Lebanese MP Gebran Tueni.

The show’s success has led to rival satcasters wheeling out their own talent competitions, with LBC offering “Star Academy” and Dubai TV airing “Gulf Star,” based on “Nashville Star.”

Even Iraq got in on the act with “Iraq Star.” The series finale, aired at the end of 2005, was watched by 65% of Iraqis with TVs and the show’s execs received more than 150,000 SMS votes.

— Ali Jaafar

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