Beverly Hills, Calif. -- Posting the biggest rating drop in its history this past season, Fox's "American Idol," the biggest non-sports TV
series in the U.S., needs changes. But it may not be enough to put Fox on top by the end of next season.
"We are not the only game in town," says Kevin Reilly, president of entertainment for Fox Broadcasting Co., speaking at the Television Critics Association meeting about new competitive singing competition shows.
The biggest changes to be made are with the judges. While Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler have been good judges over the last two years, Reilly says the show needs to up its game. Reilly announced that singer Mariah Carey would be joining the show as a judge. He didn't reveal any other changes -- other than it was "100%" of a sure thing Lopez was leaving. Previous reports suggested Lopez and Tyler will depart.
That said, Reilly admitted that changes on 'Idol" and other programming factors on other networks may not be enough to keep Fox's eight-year reign at the top network among the key viewing 18-49 group. "Idol" was the top-rated non-sports show for the ninth year. NBC's "Sunday Night Football," as an overall TV series, claimed the top spot for the first time.
"CBS been our main competition. But they have the Super Bowl as well as the NFL Playoffs this year," says Reilly. "We may not win the season this year. But I can tell you at the least, it's going to be very close."
Reilly says Fox's summer ratings have been flat year-to-year -- much of this comes from lack of original programming. "Repeats do not have much value on the air any longer. That's why we encourage viewers to go online," he says.
Starting about 10 years ago, Reilly notes that there have been continued combined share declines for the four major networks. But in recent years, it has leveled off a bit. That gives him encouragement about the TV business model.
A dual revenue stream is one hopeful factor for many TV broadcasting networks -- with new retrans money. While that is helpful, Reilly says many networks need to explore other somewhat forgotten areas/time periods.
"Our network airwaves are the most valuable on the globe," says Reilly. "Nothing matches the network platform [in the U.S]." That said, "we are looking at times of the year where we run repeats or have been negligent," says Reilly. For example, several months ago, Fox announced a full-year effort to run live sports on Saturday night -- as well as animation block on late Saturday night.
Separately, Fox announced that Peter Rice will be promoted to chairman/CEO of the Fox Networks Group, which will include Fox Sports and cable network FX. He had been chairman of entertainment Fox Networks Group. David Hill, who had been chairman and CEO of Fox Sports since 1999, is now a company wide senior executive vice president.