CKX expects to extend 'Idol' deal with Fox

CEO says show is bigger than Simon Cowell

NEW YORK -- 19 Entertainment owner CKX expects to unveil before month's end a long-term extension with Fox for the hit show "American Idol," CKX chairman and CEO Robert Sillerman said on an investor conference call Tuesday.

Sillerman lauded "Idol" judge Simon Cowell, who is leaving after this season, as a great talent but argued "Idol" is bigger than one man.

"As talented as Cowell is...'Idol's' future with this long-term extension is guaranteed," he said on the call.

He also lauded the "Idol" premiere week ratings as "spectacular."

Despite continuing TV viewership declines, "that is not the case for 'Idol,' " Sillerman said.

He also lauded new judge Ellen DeGeneres who will make her first appearance during the show's Hollywood week.

Sillerman and CFO Thomas Benson also predicted a profit improvement at 19 thanks to expected changes to its cost base in the first half of 2010 and a new deal unveiled last week with "Idol" creator Simon Fuller that sees him remain a consultant on 19's hit shows "Idol" and "So You Think You Can Dance" while he is also launching a new entertainment company. The deal will remove some development and production costs from CKX's cost base.

The Fuller deal pretty much amounts to a first-look deal at TV projects Fuller will develop, Sillerman said.

But it will allow Fuller to also develop film projects. Sillerman has opposed a move into films. He emphasized Tuesday that film is "not on the mission statement of CKX."

According to a recent regulatory filing, Fuller is considering a movie about the life and times of Elvis Presley. CKX holds the rights to Presley.

When asked by an analyst if CKX could sell "Idol" or 19, Sillerman said "we have to consider everything" if the business doesn't develop as hoped or if Fuller or other parties end up looking like better owners.

"That's not our direction at the moment...but our responsibility is building shareholder value," Sillerman said.

Fox has a deal for "Idol" through next season and had been close to securing the show for what is believed to be three additional years.

Asked about the pending extension last week, Fox entertainment chairman Peter Rice said: "Our expectation is that 'Idol' will run for many, many, many, many, many more seasons."
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