Fox and 'Idol' hatch plan to step on ABC's 'Dancing with the Stars' toes
By Christopher Rocchio, 03/22/2007
Although the fourth season of Dancing with the Stars went out of its way to try waltz out of the same time periods as the sixth season of American Idol, Fox -- clearly having other ideas -- has decided to go out of its way to try and step on ABC's toes.
Fox has announced it will expand next Tuesday night's one-hour American Idol Top 10 live performance episode by seven minutes -- a move that will put it in direct competition with the first seven minutes of ABC's first fourth season Dancing with the Stars results show. The Idol performance episode will air from 8PM to 9:07PM ET on March 27, while the Dancing with the Stars results show will be broadcast from 9PM to 10PM ET/PT.
Back in January, ABC had announced that Dancing with the Stars' fourth installment would move from the Tuesday/Wednesday schedule that its fall edition had used to a Monday/Tuesday schedule. Remaining in the same Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 8PM ET/PT time periods would have resulted in Dancing with the Stars airing against Idol, a high-stakes ratings gamble that ABC decided it wasn't willing to risk.
"The great thing about this air schedule is that fans won't have to choose between the two reality hits this spring," ABC Entertainment president Stephen McPherson, while failing to mention Idol by name, stated in the network's press announcement in January.
But when Dancing with the Starspremiered to big ratings this Monday, Fox apparently decided to act, claiming that although it's known the March 27 broadcast would feature 10 finalists since Idol's season began back in January, the sudden seven-minute expansion of next Tuesday's Idol was being done "to accommodate all 10 live performances."
Idol's first two live performance episodes were two-hour broadcasts, and were noticeably filled with filler. While two hours apparently would have been too much time for the Top 10 performance episode, an hour just wasn't good enough to cram in 10 performances, mentoring from singer Gwen Stefani, fan's questions, judges' comments and -- of course -- commercials.
On Thursday, The Washington Postreported that the rest of the television industry isn't buying Fox's explanation for the Idol broadcast's sudden expansion and considers the scheduling change to be a "kill-it-in-the-cradle school" counter programming strategy.
Nevertheless, Idol's Top 10 will be mentored by Stefani this week as the finalists pick their favorite songs from the pop genre. On Wednesday, March 28 at 9PM ET Fox will air a live results show, narrowing the finalists from 10 to nine and featuring a performance of "The Sweet Escape" by Stefani and rapper Akon.