American Idol Is Officially Returning Next Season, but ABC, Not Fox, Is Behind the Revival

The network is hoping for a spark from the former ratings juggernaut

Ryan Seacrest, who just signed a deal with Disney-ABC to co-host Live, could do double duty for the company on Idol. Getty Images
Headshot of Jason Lynch

Just one year after its “farewell season,” American Idol will be returning to broadcast TV. But when the popular music competition series comes back next season, it will air on ABC, not FOX, where the show ran for 15 seasons.

ABC announced this morning that it has closed a deal with producers FremantleMedia North America and 19 Entertainment to revive American Idol for next season. There is no word yet on a time slot, premiere date or who might host or judge the competition, but the network is expected to reveal at least some of those details at its upfront event next Tuesday.

“American Idol on ABC … that has a nice ring to it,” said Ben Sherwood, co-chairman of Disney Media Networks and president of Disney-ABC, in a statement. “Idol is an entertainment icon, and now it will air where it belongs, in ABC’s lineup of addictive fan favorites alongside Dancing with the Stars and The Bachelor. America, get ready for the return of a bigger, bolder and better-than-ever Idol.”

ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey took a swipe at Fox for its decision to end the show last year after 15 seasons: “American Idol is a pop-culture staple that left the air too soon. ABC is the right home to reignite the fan base. We are thrilled viewers will once again share in these inspiring stories of people realizing their dreams.”

Reports have swirled for the past few months of a potential Idol revival, with Fox and NBC also said to be involved in the bidding. “All of the intense ‎speculation surrounding the comeback of American Idol demonstrates just how popular and powerful this brand remains,” said Peter Hurwitz, CEO of 19 Entertainment’s parent company CORE Media Group, in a statement. “ABC shares our belief in the enduring value of Idol and will provide us with the perfect new home to showcase the gold standard of singing competition shows.”

Now that ABC has landed the show, the network will need to find a host and judges. Perhaps not coincidentally, last week Disney-ABC signed Ryan Seacrest, who hosted Idol for its entire run, as Kelly Ripa’s new Live co-host.

While Seacrest would seem a shoo-in to return, with ABC helping him juggle his Live and Idol duties, “I don’t know if I can host it,” he said on Monday’s Live. “Do you know the preparation I have to do for [Live] every night?”

Ripa replied that she’ll make it easy for him to do both shows: “You can disconnect for that! On the days where it is the day after, I will totally … you won’t even have to think, I will do it all!”

“American Idol is a pop-culture staple that left the air too soon. ABC is the right home to reignite the fan base. We are thrilled viewers will once again share in these inspiring stories of people realizing their dreams.”
Channing Dungey, ABC Entertainment president

While ABC already has Seacrest in-house, it will have a tougher time wooing back Idol’s most famous judges. Simon Cowell is already hosting America’s Got Talent, which he also executive produces for NBC. And Jennifer Lopez has three separate projects at NBC: the new dance competition World of Dance, which debuts later this month, as well as drama Shades of Blue, which is already renewed for next season, and Bye Bye Birdie Live!, which will air in December.

During its lengthy run, Idol launched the careers of Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Katharine McPhee, Jennifer Hudson and Chris Daughtry. It also kept Fox on top in the 18-49 demo for a decade.

In its early seasons, the show would routinely draw audiences of more than 30 million, but the show had fallen back to earth by its final season with an average of 11 million viewers.

The news of the show’s return comes exactly one week before ABC will unveil its 2017-18 schedule to buyers at its annual upfront event.

The network could use any type of boost from Idol, as it will once again finish in fourth place among broadcasters this season in the 18-49 demo as it rebuilds its lineup. Dungey recently told Adweek that after drama fizzles like Notorious, Conviction and Time After Time, “I want to figure out exactly what our drama brand is, outside of TGIT” shows from Shonda Rhimes. “I am very interested in broadening our portfolio of drama to include some lighter, brighter [shows], maybe even a one-hour comedy in the vein of Desperate Housewives or Ugly Betty.”

ABC has tried, and failed, to launch its own musical competition series, with 2012’s Duets and 2014’s Rising Star lasting just one season each. The network will try again this summer, with Boy Band.

@jasonlynch Jason Lynch is TV Editor at Adweek, overseeing trends, technology, personalities and programming across broadcast, cable and streaming video.