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Simon Fuller on how ‘Idol’ began

Brit music maven discusses the show's launch

EXCLUSIVE: For many years I had been putting together various music projects using an audition process. The Spice Girls came through auditions and so did “S Club 7,” a huge British television and music franchise that I created. The show aired in over 100 countries and we sold millions of singles around the world on the back of the TV show.

With this realization, that television sells music so potently, I developed an online idea called “Fame Search,” where the audience could nominate singers to appear in a new group. This then evolved into a TV format where the online voting element became phone and text voting. The interactivity was important because this would allow the audience to tell me who they liked best and this, in turn, would indicate to me who would have the most fans and eventually sell the most music and become the biggest stars.

The other big music reality show around at the time was a show called “Popstars,” which, in essence, was a “Making the Band”-type show without any audience interactivity or voting and without any live televised performance event. My show brought together many different elements to one show: Mass auditions, the search for a new star, judges, audience voting. We created this huge live TV event drawing more from a sporting concept of true competition than a conventional talent show. I then added the drama of backstories and the real-life soap opera of the unfolding real-time events. It was a reality music competition and soap opera brought together in one massive show that later became known as “Pop Idol.”

The show was immediately a huge hit in the U.K., so I embarked on trying to sell it in the U.S. with my production partners at Fre-mantle and my friend and music partner, Simon Cowell at BMG Records.

However, we failed miserably in getting any interest and returned to England empty-handed. Eventually, after the show’s continued success in the U.K. and huge efforts from my agents at CAA, I decided to return to America alone to see if I could sell the show once again. This time I managed to get some real interest, specifically from Mike Darnell at Fox. He really understood what I was trying to achieve.

He believed in the show, had seen all the tapes from England and understood how the interactivity and scale was different to any other show at the time, including the U.S. version of “Popstars,” which had performed badly and had been taken off the air. Mike deserves a lot of credit for bringing “Idol” to America.

Well, here we are 10 seasons later and it’s with great pride I can look back and see how much impact “American Idol” has had on both the television and music industries.

In television, we defined the term “reality competition show,” pioneered audience interactivity with our phone and text voting and innovated sponsorship activity with our unique integrations. Since our first show we have exceeded all our ratings expectations, and have been the No. 1 show in America now for seven consecutive years.

This year has been a particular triumph for all of us with the introduction of new judges that have invigorated the show and have brought an optimistic spirit to the panel.

In music, I’ve proved beyond any reasonable doubt that the right kind of television show can sell music better than any other medium. We have brought connectivity from the viewer to the artist and created an unprecedented promotional and marketing platform that speaks directly to the consumer. This has translated into tens of millions of sales in both music and concert tickets and has created endless other commercial opportunities.

In these challenging times of change where the music industry has suffered greatly, “American Idol” has thrived.

CEMENTED IN FAME FOREVER: SIMON FULLER’S STAR ON THE WALK OF FAME
What: 2,441st star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
When: May 23, 2011 at 11:30 a.m.
Where: 6268 Hollywood Blvd. in front of the W Hollywood Hotel


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