"They got divorced," says one insider of the reboot talks that began with NBC and ended with hopes for a boost at Disney's flagging broadcast network. Next task: judges.
On the eve of the upfronts, American Idol is again the obsession in TV. Negotiations over Fox's retired hit wrapped May 8 with ABC agreeing to revive it for the 2017-18 season -- a deal insiders credit to the Disney network's eleventh-hour push and the persistence of FremantleMedia CEO Cecile Frot-Coutaz. "Six months ago, no one wanted it," notes one agent. "If there was one person who made this happen, it's Cecile. She was determined to get Idol back on TV."
The Idol owner's motivation to reboot its crown jewel (shared with CORE Media Group's 19 Entertainment) is clear. But the appeal to broadcast networks also makes sense. Even in its fatigued 15th and final season, Idol averaged a 3.0 rating among adults 18-to-49 and 11.5 million viewers on Fox. (In the key demo, only seven nonsports series are pulling better numbers this season.) So when word of early talks between Fremantle and NBC leaked in February (conspicuously timed to The Voice contract negotiations), Fox was also in the mix. For Fremantle execs still burned by the cancellation, however, Fox was not considered a desirable option. "They got divorced," notes an insider. "You don't get remarried one year later."