American Idol on ABC a "Tough One" For Fox, But Felt It's "Extremely Fraudulent" to Bring it Back so Soon

Fox boss Dana Walden said the network wanted to bring it back in 2020

By Chris Harnick May 15, 2017 1:40 PMTags

American Idol made the big jump from Fox to ABC a year after its farewell season and Fox boss Dana Walden had plenty to say about the surprising revival.

In a conference call with press, Walden and Gary Newman addressed Fox's new fall schedule, the future of some MIA shows, including Scream Queens, and tackled the reality juggernaut in the room: American Idol's revival and big move.

"It's obviously a tough one for us. We love American Idol…Yes, it feels bad knowing its coming back on another network," Walden said.

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Michael Becker/FOX

According to Walden, Fox and Idol producer Freemantle sat down a month or two after the show wrapped up and discussed plans to bring it back. Walden eyeballed 2020 for the big Idol reboot on Fox, but Freemantle, well, "they were determined to get the show back on the air as soon as possible."

"It felt to us, sitting in those initial meetings, that it would be extremely fraudulent to bring the show back that quickly…that our fans would not appreciate being told one thing and then bringing it back right away," Walden said about Fox's big farewell season marketing, even though Idol ratings went up with the final season. Walden said Freemantle resisted trims to make the show more manageable in terms of cost and was determined to keep the judging panel of Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr. in tact.

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"We respected that," Walden said.

When news broke that NBC was in talks to bring the singing competition back, Walden said that made sense to them because its deals with Simon Cowell for America's Got Talent and Lopez for Shades of Blue and World of Dance.

"I think the show missed Simon towards the end of its life on Fox and they have a deal with Jennifer Lopez as well. That kind of made sense to us, but really made us focus on the fact that not withstanding, it was too early to bring the show back…We did not see the fan excitement and enthusiasm for the show to come back that Freemantle [saw]. We just had a different set of facts. We did make an offer, Freemantle was definitely not interested."

When Idol returns to ABC in 2018 that will have meant the show was only off the air for one full season. "Again we thought it was way too soon," she said.

"ABC's passion and enthusiasm make them a perfect home for American Idol. We are excited to be partnering with them to discover the next generation of talented artists," Cecile Frot-Coutaz, CEO of FremantleMedia Group, said in a statement when the revival was announced. "It's an irresistible combination that means now is the ideal time to welcome back one of the most successful shows in the history of contemporary television."

As for bringing back another singing competition, Cowell's The X Factor, Newman said there are no discussions and the network will look to build up its reality TV slate anew.

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