Condé Nast Teams Up With Fremantle of ‘Idol’ Fame

Publisher to expand into consumer products, possibly TV

What is the rarified Condé Nast doing slumming with FremantleMedia, the company behind reality TV phenomenon American Idol? It's all about the bottom line: The luxury publisher has been keen to wring new revenue out of its brands as print ad revenue has softened, and it’s looking to the production giant to help it.

But don’t wait for Vogue– and The New Yorker-branded reality TV just yet.

FremantleMedia Enterprises, the marketing arm of FremantleMedia and the licensing division for Idol and its other shows, is teaming with three Condé imprints: Self, Golf Digest, and Epicurious. The plan is to take them into consumer products, online, and potentially other platforms, which could include TV.

A Condé Nast spokeswoman said there wasn’t much to say about the partnership because it’s just begun. “They are only a component of our overall approach to licensing, not a centerpiece,” she said.

After luxury advertising nose-dived during the recession, Condé Nast did something unprecedented by folding a handful of magazines to chase other, newer revenue streams. The partnership with Fremantle seems to be its most pronounced move in that direction yet.

FremantleMedia’s best-known hit, American Idol, has been called the most profitable TV show in the U.S. Apart from advertising on the program itself, the show has made fistfuls of dollars through brand extensions, licensing fees, and the like. Condé Nast is its first media company among its third-party brands.

In the case of Golf Digest, the title’s work with Fremantle will focus on home, accessories, video instruction, and corporate gifts, said Tom Bair, vp, publishing director of Golf Digest.

Bair added that the licensed products wouldn’t compete against advertisers that run in Golf Digest, mindful of one of the big pitfalls magazines face when they venture into licensing products.

“Licensing adds another successful component to our business as [our] customers look to seek additional engagement with our property through various products and services,” he said. Sadly, it still appears too much to hope for a Golf Idol or American Golfer reality show just any time soon.