American Idol is taking major steps toward moving forward.
Sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that ABC is considered the front-runner to land the singing competition’s return — though its original network Fox is still said to be in the mix. ABC, Fox and producers FremantleMedia and Core Media Group all declined comment.
TMZ reported Thursday that ABC is likely to land American Idol‘s return — for a March 2018 launch — with a formal announcement expected at its May 16 upfront presentation to ad buyers. While NBC originally was the first to eye its return, sources tell THR that the network is no longer in the running. It’s unclear which, if any, judges will return, or if Ryan Seacrest — who recently relocated to New York to co-host Live — would continue on as the show’s host.
Few in reality thought American Idol was gone for good when Fox shut it down after 15 seasons in 2016, 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.
The return 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 the show was held up against. American Idol came with an incredible price tag for Fox, which had to pay astronomical salaries to talent — most notably Seacrest and judge Jennifer Lopez.
Show creator Simon Fuller has never been shy about his desire to place American 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 with 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.”