Fox on 'American Idol' revival on ABC -- It would have been "fraudulent" for us to bring it back so quickly
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 05/15/2017
American Idol's ABC revival apparently has Fox executives disappointed and frustrated.
"Yes it feels bad knowing it's coming back on another network," Fox Television Group chairman Dana Walden told reporters on Monday when discussing her network's newly-announced 2017-2018 schedule, according to Reuters.
"It's obviously a tough one for us. We loved American Idol. It's so connected to the Fox brand. It was associated with a tremendous amount of success for everyone involved for 15 years."
The ground-breaking reality singing competition aired on the same network right up until 2016, with Trent Harmon being crowned champion of Season 15 -- what was supposed to be Idol's "farewell season," at least until further notice.
Walden explained Fox had a different vision for American Idol's eventual comeback than the show's production company FremantleMedia North America. Reuters reported Walden saying the difference in opinion became apparent during talks that took place over the last year.
Fox reportedly wanted to give Idol a break and bring it back with a new format in 2020, while FremantleMedia was pushing for what Walden would consider a premature turnaround and release.
Given all the focus, resources and marketing money that went into Idol's so-called farewell season, Walden said Fox executives simply couldn't go through with producers' wishes.
"It would be extremely fraudulent to bring the show back quickly," Walden said, according to Reuters. "We felt that our fans would not appreciate being told one thing and then have the show brought back right away."
Walden reportedly added that Fremantle "wanted the show back on the air and they saw an opportunity at ABC."
But Walden revealed that Fox and Fremantle were actually in disagreement even before Idol's fifteenth season aired.
Production reportedly resisted Fox's desire to reduce the show's production budget and by changing the show's expensive judging panel of Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban and Harry Connick Jr. for the 2016 edition despite a 70 percent drop in ratings over four years.
"They felt they didn't want to take significant [budget] trims. They didn't want to test out a new panel," Walden explained. "They ultimately said to us they would rather rest the show than make any changes and try out of a different panel."
So with its revival, Fox was initially hoping Fremantle would allow them "the opportunity to make some changes to present the next generation of Idol."
Walden noted that the reason for Fremantle's urgency was evident in the recent earnings of it's publicly-traded parent company RTL, which took an income hit from Idol's absence in the U.S. in recent months.
"They lost revenue from not having the show in the U.S.," she reportedly said. "That's meaningful when you're running a public company."
Prior to ABC winning Idol, NBC and Fox were reportedly in a bidding war over the show. Walden said it made more sense NBC wanted American Idol because of the network's existing relationships with former judges Lopez and Simon Cowell, who respectively currently serve as judges on NBC's World of Dance and America's Got Talent.
Regardless, Reuters reported that Walden insisted "it was way too early" to bring American Idol back because "all of our research and fan forums supported that notion" and Fox executives "did not see the fan excitement."