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NBC in Talks to Revive ‘American Idol’ (EXCLUSIVE)

NBC is in talks with FremantleMedia to resurrect “American Idol,” Variety has learned.

According to sources with knowledge of the discussions, NBC has been pitched a revival of the long-running singing competition by producer Fremantle and is now mulling options for how to integrate the show into its programming slate. One possibility being considered: cutting NBC’s existing singing competition “The Voice” from two cycles a year to one.

Fremantle has been shopping an “Idol” revival in recent weeks, with NBC emerging as the leading candidate to become the new home of the long-running singing-competition series. Sources emphasize that talks are ongoing, and no deal is yet in place.

Representatives for NBC and Fremantle declined to comment.

American 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 among in the 18-49 demographic and 36.4 million total viewers, according to Nielsen live-plus-same day numbers.

Ratings began to decline steeply in the show’s later years, to the point that Fox decided that it 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.

An “American Idol” revival has been a subject of speculation since before the final season aired on Fox last year. Speaking at the Television Critics Association winter press tour in 2016, longtime host Ryan Seacrest discussed the show’s future even as he promoted what Fox had dubbed the “farewell season.”

“When you’ve got a franchise that has this kind of heritage and you’ve got a franchise that generates X amount of millions of people, if it sustains, does that mean it’s the end?” Seacrest said. “I’m not so sure.”

“The Voice,” currently in its seventh year, has shown its own ratings fatigue — even as it remains NBC’s most watched non-football offering beside freshman drama “This Is Us.” The 2016 fall cycle, which ended Dec. 12, averaged a 2.5 live-plus-same day rating among adults 18-49, according to Nielsen overnight numbers — down 19% from the previous fall.

From a scheduling standpoint, it could be difficult for NBC to find a place for “American Idol” without making changes to its existing unscripted slate. NBC’s schedule is already loaded with talent competitions year-round, with “The Voice” premiering new cycles in fall and mid-season, and “America’s Got Talent” — produced by original “American Idol” judge Simon Cowell — reigning as the network’s biggest draw in summer. In July, NBC gave a series order to “World of Dance,” a dance competition series from another former “American Idol” judge, Jennifer Lopez, which has not yet been scheduled.

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