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Upfronts

CBS considered American Idol reboot: 'So expensive, made no sense'

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Turns out CBS considered bringing back American Idol too. CBS chief Les Moonves told reporters his network seriously considered buying the reboot of the former Fox music competition series but came away with a rather negative assessment of the show’s economic value.

“We were offered American Idol,” Moonves said Wednesday. “And we looked at it. 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, okay? 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. I’m not trying to knock ABC. We looked at it. We looked at it very seriously. The economics just made absolutely no sense for us, and for them it did.”

The executive made the comments at a press breakfast to reveal his network’s new fall schedule. CBS has a series reboot of the movie S.W.A.T. this fall, and Moonves was asked his opinion of NBC bringing back Will & Grace and ABC rebooting Roseanne.

Will & Grace, I understand the pilot is very good,” Moonves said. “The Roseanne thing is a stunt. I think people are looking for a little bit of a shot in the arm. I don’t think ABC owns any of Roseanne so I don’t think that is a back end play. It’s a clever idea, I think it’s a good stunt I think people will tune in for it.”

Moonves is the latest executive to comment on the return of American Idol. Earlier this week, Fox TV chair Dana Walden slammed Fremantle, the production company behind Idol, for rushing the show back on the air after its Fox finale in 2016. “They were determined to get this show back on the air as quickly as possible,” Walden said. “We spent about $25 million sending a clear message that it was the farewell season. It felt to us it would be extremely fraudulent to bring the show back quickly, that fans would not appreciate being told one thing and then having the show brought back right away.”

Earlier, NBC executives discussed passing on an Idol return as well. “We didn’t need Idol,” said NBC Entertainment chairman Robert Greenblatt. “We did have conversations with them about Idol. We recognize the franchise is great. … We just decided we have The Voice, [and] a couple of music competition shows that we’re down the road developing that you may see coming to the schedule as early as next summer. We thought we’re going to stick with our hand.”

On Tuesday, before its upfronts presentation, ABC defended bring the reality competition series back to air. “Look, from where we sit, we feel it’s a great time to bring the series back,” ABC entertainment president Channing Dungey told reporters. “What I love about it, personally, [is that Idol is] about uplifting stories about people who make their dreams come true — and that’s our sweet spot at ABC. All of our franchises deal in that. For me, that makes it feel like the perfect home at the perfect time.”

Katy Perry will act as a judge on the return of American Idol, which ABC has yet to slot on its schedule.