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Executives at the four major broadcast networks all had conversations with the producers of "American Idol" about bringing the show back.
CBS said no. NBC said no. Fox said … not yet.
And ABC said yes because, well, it's desperate. ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey didn't put it that way, of course.
"We are thrilled and so excited to have that as part of our slate," she said. "It feels like the perfect addition."
NBC Entertainment chairman Robert Greenblatt said "American Idol" is a "great title," but he decided to stick with "The Voice" and "a couple of music competitions that we're … developing."
"Also, the audience hadn't told us there was a compelling reason to being it back," added Paul Telegy, president of NBC Entertainment's Alternative and Reality Group.
Fox executives echoed that. After promoting the 15th cycle of "Idol" as the "farewell season," FreemantleMedia execs were back just "a month or two" after the finale in April 2016 trying to persuade Fox to revive the show.
But at Fox, they "felt very strongly" it would be "extremely fraudulent to bring the show back quickly," said Fox Television Group chairman/CEO Dana Walden. "All of our research and all of our fan forums supported that notion."
Fox execs were looking to bring "Idol" back in 2020; Freemantle didn't want to wait. And Walden sounded wistful. "Yes, it feels bad knowing it [is] coming back on another network," she said.
But not because anybody at Fox thinks they're losing out on a financial windfall. You'd be hard-pressed to find anybody in the TV business who thinks ABC is going to make big money with "Idol."
When asked about the possibility that the show could turn a profit or even break even Dungey tried humor.
"Well, look, the television business is full of red ink now, isn't it?" she replied, adding that it's too early to know.
But the show's ratings fell 70 percent its last four seasons, and Fox was "losing an enormous amount of money," Walden said.
CBS chairman/CEO Leslie Moonves said his network looked "very seriously" at "Idol," but "the economics just made absolutely no sense."
"The price is so expensive you need a 35 share to break even," he said.
(TV's highest-rated nonsports show, "The Big Bang Theory," gets about a 20 share 20 percent of those watching TV when the show airs.)
It was not a surprise when Dungey said, "We feel like it is going to be a great promotional platform for us."
In other words, ABC hopes that "Idol" can lead viewers to other ABC shows; that it will be a loss leader.
We'll see. "Idol" became a show that teen and preteen girls watch with their grandmothers. Whether ABC and Freemantle can remedy that is a huge question.
And, while no scheduling has yet been announced, rumor is that ABC will air "Idol" on Sundays beginning in January. And that's a big part of the reason ABC-owned "Once Upon a Time" is moving to Fridays, knocking a show ABC doesn't own "Last Man Standing" off the schedule. And riling up conspiracy theorists who see the cancellation as an attack on right-wing politics.
"Obviously, 'Idol' does take up a lot of hours," Dungey said, including "hours that might have otherwise gone to scripted programming."
"American Idol" won't be on ABC until January, and it's already stirring up trouble for the network.
Scott D. Pierce covers TV for The Salt Lake Tribune. Email him at email@example.com; follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce.