ABC’s ‘American Idol’ loses again as critics ponder costly show’s future

ABC’s revamped “American Idol” suffered yet another loss on Monday night as NBC’s “The Voice” prevailed in the head-to-head battle of singing competitions. The loss to “The Voice,” which mirrors what has happened each times “Idol” has faced the NBC show since it premiered, is raising eyebrows due to the show’s high cost.

“The Voice” beat “American Idol” by by 28 percent on Monday. NBC’s show picked up a 6.4 rating/10 share in households, while ABC’s “Idol” settled for 5.0/8, according to Programming Insider.

Monday’s episode featured the Top 24 contestants reveal, and many viewers took to Twitter to express disappointment in the cuts. Yahoo’s Kylie Mar predicted that contestants will “bring the heat next week” when the remaining competitors perform alongside their favorite celebrity artists — ABC executives presumably hope she’s correct.

Television critic Marc Berman wrote that “smaller than expected returns for this ABC reboot may not justify the high costs of producing it.”

The latest season of the once-canceled singing competition show has reportedly been the most expensive season yet. According to the Wall Street Journal, the celebrity stars for the revived show are being paid 60 percent more than in previous seasons. Katy Perry is raking in a reported $25 million for the season, while host Ryan Seacrest and judge Luke Bryan are each making $12 million. Lionel Richie is being paid a reported $10 million for his participation.

Other networks – such as Fox and CBS – passed on the pricey reboot, execs have previosuly revealed.

CBS’ Les Moonves said “Idol” didn’t make sense for the network from a finacial standpoint.

“We were offered ‘American Idol,’” Moonves said last year, according to Entertainment Weekly. “…For a couple of reasons, we didn’t like it. For one, the price is so expensive you need a 35 share [in the ratings] to break even, OK? And that’s not going to happen. Number two, as I mentioned, [making money off ownership from the] back end of these shows is becoming more important — or as important — as the front end [from making money off advertising]. We think we’re in a much stronger position [than ABC], we wouldn’t want to spend four hours of our schedule that we wouldn’t have any piece of selling any back end, that’s not necessarily financially beneficial.”

Chairman and CEO of Fox Television Group Dana Walden admitted last year that it was difficult to see a show synchronous with Fox land on ABC, but the decision was based on disagreements between FOX and “Idol’s” production company FremantleMedia.

Dwindling ratings combined with disagreement over judges forced Fox to end the original version in 2016, but Walden was open to bringing it back to Fox in 2020. FremantleMedia had other ideas and took the show to ABC after a 15-year run at Fox. 

Syracuse communications professor and “pop culture ambassador” Robert Thompson told Fox News last month that if the show fails it will be chalked up as a “very expensive, one season experiment.”

According to Walden, Fox felt that the show needed to make some changes, take some time off and regroup after a few years off. She explained that the Fox spent millions promoting the 15th season as the “farewell season,” and it would have been “extremely fraudulent” to bring back the show so soon after the network had promised it had aired its final season.

“We tried to engaged Fremantle in conversations about bringing it back in ’20… and they just weren’t interested it,” Walden said on a 2017 executive conference call. “They wanted it back on the air and they thought ABC was a good opportunity.”

Once “Idol” landed on ABC, the Disney-owned network was reportedly going to cap the show’s talent budget at $50 million, but Perry broke the bank.

“This has become a very expensive show. If ‘Idol’ doesn’t work, it will blow up big time in [ABC executive Ben] Sherwood’s face,” an ABC source told the New York Post last year as news of the bloated salaries was reportedly causing drama behind the scenes.

ABC Television boss Ben Sherwood opened Disney’s wallet to pay the stars of “Idol.”

The “Idol” disappointment is unfolding as ABC executives are celebrating the success of the “Roseanne” reboot. 

“’Roseanne’ is dumb luck for them. And now they think this will save their jobs. Well it won’t. It’s one show. The rest of the shop is in utter disarray,” an ABC insider told Fox News.

Meanwhile, the “Idol” stars earning the biggest paychecks have been polarizing for viewers. The original “Idol” turned Seacrest into a superstar, but the ABC host has been dogged by accusations of sexual harassment leveled by his former stylist for “E! News.” Seacrest has denied all allegations. 

Perry recently upset viewers when she tricked an unsuspecting male contestant into kissing her on the lips. The contestant later told The New York Times that the “Idol” judge made him feel uncomfortable because he was raised with conservative values and wanted his first kiss to be special.

She also battling poor publicity arising from a legal battle with some elderly nuns over a convent Perry wants to convert into a luxury estate. 

Fox News’ Leora Arnowitz contributed to this report.  

Brian Flood covers the media for Fox News. Follow him on Twitter at @briansflood.

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