facebook-pixel

'American Idol' is holding auditions in Provo — will anyone care?

<b>Television </b>• Two years after Fox’s “farewell season,” ABC is ramping up to revive the singing competition.

In a Saturday, May 13, 2017 file photo, Ryan Seacrest arrives at Wango Tango at StubHub Center, in Carson, Calif. Seacrest will be back hosting “American Idol” when it returns for a first season on ABC. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP, File)

Two years, four months and 16 days after its “farewell season” drew to a close, “American Idol” will hold auditions in Provo.

First thing Wednesday morning, hopefuls will line up at Courthouse Square for the show’s first season on ABC — not its longtime home, Fox.

American Idol” is not the pop-culture phenomenon it was the first time auditions were held in Utah, when thousands turned out in Salt Lake City in 2008, shortly after Utahn David Archuleta finished second in Season 7. Far fewer showed up when auditions returned to Salt Lake City in 2013, no doubt because far fewer viewers were tuning in.

Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune Surrounded by thousands of screaming fans, David Archuleta leaves the Gateway after a brief autograph signing on May 9, 2008. David Archuleta from Murray.

Despite massive declines in viewership — despite the fact that Fox lost a fortune on the show in its final few seasons — ABC has begun the audition process that will lead to the show being back on the air in early 2018.

It’s a revival that Fox executives insist their research shows not much of anybody has been clamoring for. Fox Television Group Chairman/CEO Dana Walden said “all of our research and all of our fan forums” supported the idea that it was too soon to bring the show back.

ABC Entertainment President Channing Dungey disagreed.

If you look at the social media on ‘American Idol,’ the fans have been clamoring for it to come back since the day that it went away,” she said. “So we feel like they are very much excited and ready for the new iteration of this.”

Walden said canceling “Idol” was a “really tough decision” because the show had been so much a part of Fox’s schedule from 2002 to 2016. But the decision had to be made after she and Gary Newman were promoted to chairmen/CEOs of the Fox Television Group in 2014 and assumed responsibility for programming the network.

‘American Idol’ was an extremely expensive show, and its ratings had dropped 70 percent in the three years prior to us getting there,” Walden said. “And in the first year that we were there, it dropped an additional 25 percent. So the economics were terrible for us.”

She and Newman “spent a lot of time” talking to the the show’s producers at FremantleMedia about cutting costs, but the producers would agree only to “some minor cosmetic trims.”

The producers “were very worried about doing anything that would disrupt the chemistry that existed on that panel” of judges — Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban and Harry Connick Jr. — whose salaries “contributed to the very high cost of that show.”

What we got back from [Fremantle] was, ‘We would prefer to end this run than to do anything that dramatically changes the format,‘” said Walden.

Fox was faced with either continuing to air “Idol” and suffering an “extraordinary loss” to its bottom line or “sending the show off for some period of time.” Walden said Fox was looking at bringing “Idol” back in maybe 2020, and leaned hard into the ethics of telling viewers 2015 was the “farewell” and bringing it back before then.

It’s not an issue at ABC.

I’m so thrilled to have ‘American Idol’ on our network,” Dungey said. “I can’t wait.”

It’s not just executives at Fox who seem certain ABC is going to lose money on “American Idol.” CBS and NBC turned down the revival, and CBS Chairman/CEO Leslie Moonves said “the economics just made absolutely no sense.”

Somebody clearly made a big mistake here. Was it ABC, which is bringing “Idol” back? Or was it Fox, which isn’t?

ABC,” Walden said with a smile. “I’m just kidding. I don’t want to be quoted as cavalierly saying ABC.”

But, not so cavalierly, Fox clearly believes ABC is getting it wrong.

Dungey has repeatedly dodged questions about whether her network can even so much as break even on “American Idol.” But she has hired Ryan Seacrest to return as host and he doesn’t come cheap, and the only judge hired so far is Katy Perry — at a reported salary of $25 million for the upcoming season.

Katy Perry arrives at Wango Tango at StubHub Center on Saturday, May 13, 2017, in Carson, Calif. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)

The ABC exec would not confirm, but she did not deny, that report. And, again, Fox execs made it clear the judges’ high salaries were a major factor in making “Idol” nonviable for them.

Dungey maintained ABC “hit the jackpot with Katy” — that the network had to spend money to make money by getting a big name as a judge.

This is a business,” she said. “We need to make sure we make the right decision so the show can be financially viable.”

Television insiders are quick to point to the fact that ABC is the network most in need of a hit right now, making it the only network willing to take this chance. And Dungey and her team hope that lightning strikes twice.

“My hope is that ‘American Idol’ is going to have a home on our schedule for quite some time to come,” she said.

‘American Idol’ auditions in Provo<br>When  • Wednesday, Aug. 23, 7 a.m.<br>Where  • Courthouse Square, 51 S. University Ave.<br>Information • Hopefuls must be between the ages of 15 and 28 and must have registered to audition online at abc.go.com/shows/american-idol/auditions

Return to Story