The broadcaster revealed Tuesday morning on “Good Morning America” that it has given a greenlight to a 16th season of the long-running music competition. The series order ends not only a process that saw multiple networks explore bringing the reality franchise to their air, but also a briefer-than-anticipated absence for a show that just a year ago celebrated its “farewell season.”
“GMA” anchors Robin Roberts and George Stephanopoulos offered few details about the planned revival. They said details such as the show’s host and judging panel were still to be determined, and there’s no word yet about a showrunner.
“America, get ready for the return of a bigger, bolder and better-than-ever ‘Idol,’ ” Disney/ABC TV Group president Ben Sherwood promised.
As rumors of “Idol’s” move to ABC spread, there’s been speculation about whether Ryan Seacrest would be able to return as host. Seacrest earlier this month was named permanent co-host of the “Live with Kelly and Ryan” syndicated morning show, in addition to hosting his daily radio program. “Live” is distributed by Disney, which could make it easier for Seacrest to juggle an obligation to another ABC program.
“ ‘American Idol’ is a pop-culture staple that left the air too soon,” said Channing Dungey, president of ABC Entertainment, in a statement. “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.”
The new-model “Idol” comes from FremantleMedia North America and Core Media Group’s 19 Entertainment. Executive producers include FremantleMedia North America’s Trish Kinane and Jennifer Mullin.
”ABC’s passion and enthusiasm make them a perfect home for ‘American Idol,’ ” said Cecile Frot-Coutaz, CEO of FremantleMedia Group. “We are excited to be partnering with them to discover the next generation of talented artists. It’s an irresistible combination that means now is the ideal time to welcome back one of the most successful shows in the history of contemporary television.”
ABC emerged as the leading candidate to bring back “Idol” in recent weeks, and by Friday had a deal in place with producers FremantleMedia and Core Media Group to lock up the show. That framework for an agreement withstood a last-second bid by Fox, which aggressively pursued the pricey series that it had canceled a year earlier. Fox was rebuffed, and by Friday evening ABC and FremantleMedia were in exclusive negotiations, putting the finishing touches on the deal.
As negotiations entered their final stages Friday, ABC was already mulling scheduling options, with insiders telling Variety at the time that the show was primed for a March 2018 premiere and would likely air on Sunday nights.
When Fremantle and Core began shopping “Idol” earlier this year, NBC at first emerged as the most likely home for the show. But the Peacock walked away from talks, worried about the series’ costs and its potential negative effect on existing singing-competition series “The Voice.”
“Idol” ran on Fox for 15 seasons beginning in 2002. For eight consecutive seasons, beginning in 2003-04, it was the highest-rated show on television. At its peak in 2006, “American Idol” averaged a 12.4 rating in the 18-49 demographic and 36.4 million total viewers.
Ratings declined steeply in the show’s later years, to the point that Fox decided that “Idol” no longer represented a worthwhile financial or scheduling commitment. (The series aired two nights a week, typically beginning in midseason.) The final season in 2016 averaged a 2.2 and 9.1 million viewers. Those numbers were far diminished from what the show drew in its heyday, but they remain respectable by contemporary standards, with delayed viewing and increased competition applying downward pressure on live ratings across television.
“All of the intense speculation surrounding the comeback of ‘American Idol’ demonstrates just how popular and powerful this brand remains,” said Peter Hurwitz, CEO of Core Media Group. “ABC shares our belief in the enduring value of ‘Idol’ and will provide us with the perfect new home to showcase the gold standard of singing competition shows.”