American Idol, a show that changed television and American popular culture, may return next year.
A Variety story reported Friday that ABC had struck a deal with FreeMantleMedia, the production company behind American Idol, and would like to bring the show back in March 2018, possibly on Sunday nights. A source with knowledge of the situation disputed that the deal had closed, but said there is a framework for a deal.
FreeMantleMedia did not immediately respond to an email from BuzzFeed News asking for a comment; ABC had no comment.
According to Variety, no talent from the show’s previous incarnation has signed on yet (and Ryan Seacrest recently took a job in New York City as the co-host of Live With Kelly and Ryan, which would complicate his possible return). Variety speculated that Kelly Clarkson, American Idol’s first winner, could possibly be involved in front of the cameras.
NBC and Fox were also in the running to bring the show back. Had NBC won, it would have been possible that Simon Cowell, who has an exclusive deal with the network, could have returned as a judge.
American Idol aired on Fox for 15 seasons, and came to an end very recently — in April of last year. The show premiered in June 2002, and grew into a gargantuan ratings machine. It dominated all of television, and made Fox the No. 1 network in the key 18 to 49 demographic. The second season’s finale (Ruben Studdard v. Clay Aiken) brought in 38 million viewers and a 16.8 among 18 to 49 year-olds.
At its height — in Seasons 5 and 6 — the show averaged more than 30 million viewers.
With those huge ratings came the show’s standing as one of the final mass cultural phenomenons. Whether it was picking sides in the competition itself, or watching the drama among the judges — particularly Cowell and Paula Abdul — play out on television, American Idol was a show that demanded to be watched live. Other than football, such things no longer exist on that large of a scale.
The show’s ratings declined, of course, and by the end, it was averaging a 2.2 in the demo and 9.1 million viewers for Season 15. But in today’s increasingly splintered television world, those would be strong numbers if American Idol could still achieve them.