CKX CEO Expects American Idol Renewal Talks With Fox Early Next Year

Says executive producer Nigel Lythgoe doing "a good job" integrating new judges Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez

NEW YORK - CKX Inc., the company behind American Idol, expects to start serious talks with Fox about a renewal of the show about half-way into this coming 10th season, or around late February-early March, CEO Michael Ferrel said Tuesday.

Given a long search process for new Idol judges and management changes at Fox, previous renewal talks were never concluded.
Once the new season has a few weeks of broadcasts to show for, the two sides will also be better to evaluate ratings trends.
Fox's current Idol deal ends after this coming season.

On his company's earnings conference call, Ferrel also touted positive developments so far in the production process for the hit show.

Returned executive producer Nigel Lythgoe "is doing a good job of integrating both Steven Tyler and Jennifer [Lopez]," he said, citing recaps from auditions that Lythgoe has sent him about the interplay between the two new Idol judges.

"They will be well poised to continue to be the top-rated show in 2011," Ferrel said.

Management said it expects significant upside to next year's financials from a restructuring at Idol producer 19 Entertainment, on which it has focused and which it recently said will yield annual savings of $20 million. Ferrel said the staff was reduced by more than 50% - from 244 to 95.

The company closed the 19 London and a separate New York office at the end of October. Staff is now concentrated in LA where they are close to the product.
CKX recently said it had ended talks about a potential sale of the company. Management reiterated that the company's board felt it wouldn't get the value it deserves in a sale and wanted to refocus on the business at hand. But it said the company wasn't shutting the door to possible future bids that may come up.