'American Idol' Could Return on NBC

It hasn't even been a year since American Idol ended, but the former TV juggernaut could soon be coming back — potentially on the network that prompted its ratings dive.

Sources confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter that NBC has indeed had talks with producers FremantleMedia about the possibility of bringing back American Idol on the top-rated network. Adding another big reality franchise would certainly fit with the NBC strategy, which is aggressive on alternative, but it would have to share the airwaves with The Voice. Broadcast's dominant reality show, which ended Idol's stunning streak shortly after its 2011 premiere, already airs two cycles a season.

Few in reality thought American Idol was gone for good when Fox shut it down after 15 seasons, but a broadcast return this soon seemed unlikely. Still, Fremantle has been aggressive in trying to find a new home for the once-global franchise. NBC declined to comment, and reps for Fremantle did not immediately respond.

Even though it is premature, the suggestion of American Idol back on the Big Four is a bit of a head-scratcher. It was a shell of its former self when it finally wrapped up, averaging a 3.0 rating among adults 18-49 and 11 million viewers in its final season. 
 
Those numbers, which include time-shifting, are actually pretty good by most standards — though not by the ones Idol was held up against. The show came at incredible price tag for Fox, which had to pay astronomical salaries to talent — most notably Ryan Seacrest and Jennifer Lopez. 



NBC could have a number of rationales for the move. Network brass, most notably entertainment chief Bob Greenblatt and alternative topper Paul Telegdy, have spoken about the fact that The Voice will likely end up airing annually and not twice a season as it has done since its premiere. Though the series has kept atypically steady in the ratings, thanks in large part to a revolving door of A-list mentor talent, it has not been immune to declines. Another possibility, which one source suggests, is that the network is looking for leverage in its upcoming negotiation with Voice producers. 

Creator Simon Fuller has never been shy about his desire to place Idol elsewhere. As soon as it ended, the prolific producer was already talking about how it will likely look different when it eventually returns. "There are loads of ideas being shared, and I’m deep in thought about how we can evolve Idol," he told THR last year. "We debuted at the very beginning of the digital world. So the next generation of Idol will be a lot more interactive, a lot more immersive."

Seacrest was also optimistic when he spoke to THR in 2016. "I just don't see a world where Idol doesn't resurface," he said. "We look at formats. We try to create shows. It's hard to believe that franchise doesn't resurface in some capacity, in some form, soon."

Lesley Goldberg contributed to this report. The news was first reported by Variety.
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