Fox Sings New Tune, Orders 'The Four'

Beverly Hills, Calif. — The Fox television network no longer has “American Idol,” but it will have a new singing competition show, which hopes to deliver higher entertainment programming viewer levels to the network.

Fox will launch new singing reality show “The Four,” which shakes up the reality format. Four finalists are chosen in the first episode. Each week, new contestants challenge those finalists to steal one of the four slots, with the winner named in the season finale. 

“The original four will be known by the audience; there will be emotional stories and rooting interests,” says Dana Walden, chairman/CEO of Fox Television Group, speaking at the Television Critics Association meeting here. “When someone comes in to challenge them, they [the finalists] are the incumbent.”



Challengers will have their own fans, including the judges: “The longer you are on, the longer you will be having expert advice,” says Rob Wade, president of alternative entertainment and specials for the Fox Broadcasting company.

“The Four” will begin in 2018. Walden says it will not run against “American Idol,” which has moved to ABC. Fox decided to stop “American Idol" in 2016, although the producer Fremantle North America wanted to continue. Walden says the financial costs were becoming tougher.  

“We had a really tough decision,” she says. “‘American Idol" was a really expensive show and ratings dropped 70% ... The economics were terrible.”  

This included the expense of the three judges and the format, which Fremantle North America did not want to change. For the new “Idol” on ABC, big pop singer Katy Perry has reportedly inked a deal worth $25 million.

At its peak, “Idol” pulled in $883.7 million in 2008 national TV advertising, according to Forbes via Kantar Media estimates, dropping to $242.2 million in 2015. “Idol” averaged more than 31 million viewers in 2006. In 2016, its final season of its 15-year run, it averaged just over 11 million viewers.

Coca-Cola, AT&T and Ford Motor Company were the big three marketing partners for virtually the series’ entire run. At its peak, estimates were each "Idol" sponsor paid around $50 million to $60 million per season.

For the just-completed upfront for the 2017-2018 TV season, Fox earned total revenue similar to a year ago, according to media executives, pulling in an estimated $1.55 billion in upfront dollar volume. Estimates are Fox inked 6% to 8% gains on pricing -- the cost per thousand viewers (CPMs).

Looking recently at Fox's programming results, it has done well with its summer programming -- versus other networks. Fox is down 7% among 18-49 viewers in total day live program/same-day time-shifting in the third quarter so far. ABC is down 21%; NBC dipped 15%; and CBS lost 13%.

“MasterChef” is Fox's top summer show, averaging 3.5 million viewers.

For the completed 2016-2017 TV season, Fox grew 7% to a Nielsen 2.54 million 18-49 viewers in the C3 metric -- the average minute commercial ratings plus three days of time-shifted viewing. Much of this was due to airing the Super Bowl.

Fox’s best-performing series last season were: “Empire,” a Nielsen 7.6 million total viewers (2.74 ratings in 18-49 ratings); “The Simpsons,” 4.1 million viewers (1.8 rating in 18-49); “Lethal Weapon,” 6.5 million (1.6 rating in 18-49); “24: Legacy,” 5.1 million (1.4 18-49 rating); and “Star” 4.2 million viewers, (1.3 18-49 rating).

Taking out all sports programming last season, Fox sank 20% in total day 18-49 viewing, largely due to bad comparisons stemming from the final season of “American Idol” in 2016.

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