EXCLUSIVE: German Star Goalie Oliver Kahn Launches Soccer-Flavored Take on 'American Idol' at MIPCOM

The show will feature 20 contestants competing for a real-life contract with a professional soccer team.

COLOGNE, Germany - German goalie Oliver Khan, known during his playing career as King Khan for his ferocious dominance on the pitch, is diving into reality TV with the launch of a new casting/coaching format called I Never Give Up! in which contestants will compete to win a real-life contract with a professional soccer team. Kahn will head the jury judging the contestants as well as acting as motivator and trainer for the would-be soccer pros.

In an exclusive interview Kahn - three time world goalie of the year and MVP of the 2002 World Cup - spoke to The Hollywood Reporter’s German Bureau Chief Scott Roxborough on this Idol take on soccer, which launches at the MIPCOM international television confab next week. Robert Niemann's International Content & Media is selling I Never Give Up! worldwide.

The Hollywood Reporter: Why do a soccer casting show? What will I Never Give Up! bring to TV that we haven't already seen before?

Oliver Kahn: Until now we haven't had a dramatic, successful soccer-casting format to compare with those in the music and fashion industries. The attempts so far have been poorly executed and, most importantly, they haven't had a big enough prize for the winner. In our format, we've changed all that. 10 field players face off against 10 goalies and the winner receives a professional contract in their national league!

THR: How will you cast the show?

Oliver Kahn: We're looking for young people who, for various reasons, have so far failed to prove their talent. Worldwide, soccer clubs have a tight scouting network that scoops up nearly every young talent. Virtually every player of ability aged 10-14 is known to the top clubs. . But just 1 - 3 per cent of these talents make the leap to turn pro.
The main reasons are usually personal issues. Problems in dealing with the challenges of everyday life. In my youth, I was often considered unsuitable for professional sport. Again and again, other players were promoted ahead of me. But I never lost sight of my personal goal: to be the best keeper in the world.  
Our show targets these never-made-it talents and gives them a real second chance. The result is authentic, exciting and emotional stories as the candidates go through the coaching process and the show's challenges . Viewers can take part directly on our voting platform online at www.fanoracle.com and rate the candidates.

THR: Who is your target audience?

Oliver Kahn: Sport and soccer in particular, is entertainment at its best! We want to give young viewers and the whole family the best soccer entertainment show we can. Like with American Idol we will also benefit from advance scouting and casting of contestants. We're looking mainly for young players between 16-22 years of age and the show is targeting a core 14-49 year-old demographic, both male and female.

THR: Will your soccer pals - from Bayern Munich or the German national team - take part in the show?

Oliver Kahn: The actually make up of the jury and guest stars will vary from territory to territory but it would make sense to have former colleges participate. But in my opinion it is also very important to have a woman on the jury. She doesn't have to come from the world of soccer, though. We will also have VIP guests from local leagues and clubs.

THR: Will you produce the show, as well as being head of the jury?

Oliver Kahn: I'm the head of the jury and I crown the winner at the end of the show. I may also, depending on the agreement with local partners, act as a co-producer with my production company YES!  It may make a lot of sense, for example, in tying in sponsorship partners or channels, if I work closely with the show's production.

THR: You shot a version of the show in China last year, how was that experience?

Oliver Kahn: Very positive. The candidates' personal and athletic development during the competition was very impressive. The production worked well and aired across the country on Chinese satellite broadcaster Heilongjiang.

THR: Will you be in MIPCOM to support the show?

Oliver Kahn: It doesn't look as if I can make it to MIPCOM. But I'll be at MIP-TV in the Spring to present it there.

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