'Next Superstar' promises to be different from 'American Idol'

Nigel Lythgoe is partnering with his son Simon and Bob Kusbit to exec produce a new music competition series that CMT will launch in April.

With a 10-episode order, “CMT’s Next Superstar” will offer a country-music star search competition somewhat in the vein of Fox’s “American Idol,” to which Nigel Lythgoe recently returned as an exec producer, and “Nashville Star,” which aired on multiple networks during its 2003-08 run. But the Lythgoes were quick to downplay the similarities.

“It’s actually very, very different from both of those productions,” Simon Lythgoe told Variety. “Both of those productions were very glitzy-glamour sort of studio shows. We’re down and dirty.”

“Next Superstar” eschews the onscreen audition process and starts with its 10 finalists, who do most of their work outside of a studio, with every episode presenting a specific challenge that relates to country music or the business. In addition to song performance, competitors will be evaluated on such skills as songwriting ability and performance in remote locales, radio interviews and musicvideos.

In every episode except the finale, the live audience will vote on the performers, with judges (to be named later) choosing between the bottom two. Winner of “Next Superstar” will be announced at the CMT Awards in June.

“I wanted it to be so vastly different from ‘American Idol,’ ” Nigel Lythgoe said. “Of course you’re dealing with songs, and you’re dealing with talent. … We’ve often been told by performers (that) ‘Idol’ is a great springboard, but it’s also shortcutting so much of the business. What I like about this is this isn’t shortcutting it.”

CMT approached the Lythgoes about developing the show in December. The elder Lythgoe credits his son for getting him involved in the reality singing competition business to begin with.

“I’ve always said the remarkable thing about this entire journey in America (was) it wouldn’t have happened without Simon,” he said. “I went to see my son working on Australian television on a show called “Popstars,” which I loved. I bought the format and took it back to England, which inspired Simon Fuller to create ‘Pop Idol.'”

Said Simon: “The good thing about working with my dad — I know it sounds silly — we work really well together, because a lot of the time I know what he wants before he wants it. I can read him very well.”

“Next Superstar” will be produced by the Lythgoes’ Los Angeles-based Legacy Prods. and by Big Red 2 Entertainment, co-founded by Lythgoe with 19 Entertainment. Simon Lythgoe co-exec produced CMT’s “Can You Duet” and “Celebrity Family Feud.”

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