You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

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.

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

More TV

  • OG Review

    Review: 'O.G.' on HBO

    Jeffrey Wright, the most compelling reason to watch HBO’s new film “O.G.,” is among television’s best actors at switching between codes or manners of being. On “Westworld,” his timeline-toggling android swaps personae so delicately that his performance gains in resonance when recalled in retrospect. (Perhaps that’s why Wright has been so oddly underrated through the [...]

  • Nahnatchka Khan Writers Room

    Nahnatchka Khan Exits 20th Century Fox TV for Overall Deal at Universal

    Nahnatchka Khan has signed a four-year overall deal at Universal Television. The deal brings an end to the decade-plus Khan and her Fierce Baby Productions banner spent at 20th Century Fox Television. The move will see Khan exit from her role as showrunner on ABC comedy “Fresh Off the Boat,” which she also created. The [...]

  • David Ajala

    'Nightflyers' Star David Ajala Joins CBS Drama Pilot 'Under the Bridge'

    David Ajala has been cast in a lead role in the CBS drama pilot “Under the Bridge,” Variety has learned. In the project, when a scandal rocks the medical practice she runs with her husband and their friends, a surgeon rises to the occasion and takes the lead in trying to mend both the practice and [...]

  • A Man Walks Into the Cnn

    CNN Puts Former Sessions Aide in Newsroom Role

    Sarah Isgur Flores, a press aide to former US Attorney General Jeff Sessions, has been hired to help coordinate political coverage for CNN, a move that generated some pushback on social media Tuesday. Politico previously reported the CNN hire. Flores in the past has criticized CNN coverage. She will be just the latest political operative [...]

  • Gerald Blum, Inspiration for 'WKRP In

    Gerald Blum, Inspiration for 'Big Guy' Carlson on 'WKRP in Cincinnati,' Dies at 86

    Gerald “Jerry” Blum, the inspiration for the character of radio station general manager Art “Big Guy” Carlson on the long-running TV sitcom “WKRP in Cincinnati,” died Saturday at 86. The Atlanta radio veteran was affectionately transformed into the fictional Carlson by veteran comic actor Gordon Jump on “WKRP,” which ran for four seasons on CBS [...]

  • Arrested Development Season 5 review

    TV News Roundup: 'Arrested Development' Sets Season 5 Return Date at Netflix

    In today’s TV news roundup, the second half of “Arrested Development” season five gets a release date and Netflix announces the voice cast for “Green Eggs and Ham.” CASTING Netflix has announced the ensemble voice cast for the upcoming “Green Eggs and Ham” series executive produced by Ellen DeGeneres and based on the Dr. Seuss book. [...]

  • LA Rams running back Todd Gurley

    Live+7 Ratings for Week of Jan. 28: Super Bowl LIII Clobbers Competition

    In a shock to no one, the 2019 Super Bowl handily defeated all of its broadcast competition in the Live+7 numbers for the week of Jan. 28. Live sports typically receive virtually no lift in delayed viewing, and Super Bowl LIII was no exception. The game did, however, rise from a 31.1 rating in adults [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content