“American Idol” heads to ABC

American Idol could head to ABC. (Getty Images)

ABC snags hit Fox show for reboot 

[Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared Sunday and has been rewritten with new information.] 

After rumors American Idol would resurface next year on NBC, ABC has acquired the rights to reboot the franchise.

Variety first reported Friday a deal was near with ABC; but Fox, who aired the series for fifteen years, was reportedly still in the running. NBC, who was pitched first about an Idol reboot, has passed.

ABC would premiere the show in March but it is not known if Ryan Seacrest would return as host as Seacrest recently became co-host of Live! with Kelly Ripa. Live is syndicated by Disney-ABC Domestic Television and airs on ABC affiliates in many cities, including nine of the top ten markets.

Seacrest, who hosted the series its entire run, could host Idol again. But for this to happen, Idol would have to shift locales from Los Angeles to New York – unless he wants to fly cross-country (Seacrest said he would be in L.A. on weekends.) Also, Seacrest was present in the auditions held around the country – it is not known how all of this would fit in his busy schedule if he were to host.

ABC is planning to air Idol on Sunday nights – something Fox never did in order not to interrupt their longtime successful Animation Domination block, led by longtime stalwarts The Simpsons and Family Guy.

The addition of Idol to ABC’s lineup could be a boon – ratings for the network on Sunday nights this season has been a disaster, with the recent cancellation of Time After Time and the long-running Once Upon A Time flailing. Idol’s season average last year would be good enough to place second among adults 18-49.

The return of Idol would also be a boon for the ailing broadcast network television business as ratings for the Big 4 broadcast networks have slid off the ratings runway. In the last two weeks, several broadcast networks have been beaten in the ratings by the NBA Playoffs on several nights – despite the “cord-cutting” phenomenon the business is going through. Despite ratings a fraction of what they were during their heyday, Idol still performed better than prime-time shows or the air now, including even The Big Bang Theory and Empire.

ABC 7’s popularity could give a boost for “Idol”, which always lacked in ratings and buzz in Chicago.

Locally, Idol could get a huge boost thanks to the strength of ABC’s Chicago station, WLS-TV, known as ABC 7. Idol has lagged here locally in part thanks to the weak ratings Fox-owned WFLD has as an affiliate overall. Meanwhile, ABC 7 has been the market’s top-rated station for more than 30 years and also has Chicago’s top-rated news operation. Can you imagine Janet Davies (and even Cheryl Scott) talking about American Idol? (I know, I know… yours truly dreads the thought of it myself.) Already, the station’s early newscasts devotes time…actually way too much time to ABC reality hits Dancing With The Stars and The Bachelor. Idol could make the newscasts even more unbearable to watch.

If you’ve read the blog over the years, you know how much yours truly detests American Idol – the show was nothing but an over glorified karaoke contest led by an annoying host and an even more annoying pack of judges in Randy Jackson, Simon Cowell, and Paula Abdul (especially Paula.) While it made stars of people like Jennifer Hudson and Chris Daugherty, it also gave us William Hung and Sanjaya – not to mention a contrived joke of season 12, shifting the focus of the show to feuding judges rather than the talent. And speaking of the talent, winners have gone from the talented Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood to too many forgettable white guys with guitars in later seasons.

The only difference today is, we have far more choices for entertainment than ever before – part of the reason of Idol’s downfall to begin with. The only reason to bring Idol back now is there’s an audience who “misses” the show who would tune in and watch. Networks need ratings and revenue and advertisers and Idol is the quick fix in order to achieve this goal in an era of increasing fragmentation.

Thank God for streaming services.

Here’s excerpts from the official press release, via The Programming Insider:

Ben Sherwood, Co-Chairman, Disney Media Networks and President, Disney-ABC:

“‘American Idol’ on ABC…that has a nice ring to it. ‘Idol’ is an entertainment icon, and now it will air where it belongs, in ABC’s lineup of addictive fan favorites alongside ‘Dancing with the Stars’ and ‘The Bachelor.’ America, get ready for the return of a bigger, bolder and better-than-ever ‘Idol’.”

Channing Dungey, President, ABC Entertainment:

“‘American Idol’ is a pop-culture staple that left the air too soon. ABC is the right home to reignite the fan base. We are thrilled viewers will once again share in these inspiring stories of people realizing their dreams.”