Unlike CBS and wounded NBC, Fox’s executive session with Peter Rice, chairman, Entertainment and Kevin Reilly, president of Entertainment, was smack in the middle of the day. Immediately addressing the rumor that Conan O’Brien is bolting NBC for Fox, Reilly said there are no immediate plans in the works.
“I love Conan personally and professionally, but right now he’s got a decision to make about his future, and until he makes that decision, there really is no conversation to be had, and we have not pursued it ," said Reilly.
"We talked to his people, who we are in business with on multiple fronts. We talk to them all the time. So we’ve had some informal conversations, mostly commiserating about the situation. Beyond that, we’re not free to talk about any other business negotiation or business proposition, and we haven’t. So that’s really all we can tell you on that front.”
What could have been another session focused on NBC’s woes took a 180 degree turn when Fox brought out American Idol host Simon Cowell, who announced he is leaving the long-running (and top-rated) reality/competition in May to launch a U.S. version of U.K. hit The X Factor, which will debut in fall 2010. Cowell will serve as both executive producer and judge of the U.S. version, which will feature the judges mentoring a select group of musical wannabes. Unlike, Idol, there is no age limit for the participating contestants.
“I’m confident that [Idol] will continue to be the No. 1 show, and everyone’s committed to keeping it that way,” said Cowell. “I think the network has made a commitment for at least three more years.”
“We are incredibly committed to American Idol, as we’re committed to The X Factor,” added Peter Rice. “They will air in different parts of the year. The American public loves American Idol. Simon is irreplaceable, but it’s going to be incumbent upon us to make sure the show remains vital and entertaining and compelling, and it’s a show that has launched superstars. People love the format, and we have to come up with a way to keep that energy in the show going and keep it focused on the contestants.”
There is no word from Fox on potential replacements for Simon Cowell, or if former Idol judge Paula Abdul would be joining The X Factor.
“I adore Paula,” said a confident Cowell. “Whatever happens, I will be working with her in some capacity because I miss her.”
In other news, the emphasis at Fox next season will be comedy development. The network also is not about to abandon an aggressive programming slate on declining Friday, there is no official news on when or if, recently yanked reality/competition Our Little Genius will return.
“This is something that happened at the producing level, a miscommunication in which information was potentially overlapping that could have seemed to compromise the sanctity of the show,” said Reilly. “Mark Burnett, to his credit, I think at a very early stage, looked at this and said, “This could open up a possibility of impropriety, so I’m going to shut it down now. Going forward, Mark has indicated he wants to reproduce Our Little Genius himself. We haven’t had a chance to really engage on that, so we’re going to cross that bridge next.”
Related: Further Comment From Fox's Reilly on Conan (video)