'American Idol' No Longer Idle, Going Into Syndication

In what is likely the shortest window ever for a first-run network TV hit, "American Idol" is already going into syndication. The first season of the show, dubbed "American Idol Rewind," has already been cleared on Tribune and Sinclair stations covering 55 percent of U.S. TV homes and nine of the top 10 markets.

The announcement comes just as Fox has launched the fifth season of the ratings blockbuster, and follows a new report from Magna Global USA indicating that syndication launches have a negative impact on the ratings of first-run network shows (MediaDailyNews, Jan. 18).

The weekly syndicated show will feature a combination of performances, results, and never-before-seen audition material. Tribune is looking for a double-run, where the same episode would run Saturday and Sunday some time between 4 and 7 P.M.

Tribune will sell the advertising. A company representative said it was too early to determine what level of involvement major "Idol" sponsors Coke, Ford, and Cingular will have in the syndicated version. Since the show will be edited, it is possible their product placements could be tinkered with.

On Tuesday, the fifth first-run season of "Idol" had its largest premiere ratings ever on Fox. Tribune and partners FremantleMedia North America and 19 Entertainment are banking that the show's apparently still-growing popularity, first season idol Kelly Clarkson's success as a pop star since winning "Idol," and new audition footage will combine to make it a syndication hit even though the outcome is known.

It appears that "Idol's" first season will air during the 2006-07 season--and if successful, successive seasons will move to syndication.

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