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‘American Idol’ Owner CKX Now Belongs To Investment Firm Apollo Global

It’s official: Leon Black’s Apollo Global Management owns CKX, the company that billionaire Robert F. X. Sillerman created to capitalize on TV hits including American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance, and the licensing rights to Elvis Presley and Muhammad Ali.  The final price came to about $510 million or $5.50 a share. In CKX’s heyday, in May 2005, the stock sold for close to $30. Apollo will have its hands full: CKX must negotiate a new Idol deal with Fox, and develop plans to fix up Graceland, Presley’s former home that’s now a tourist attraction. Sillerman, who amassed his fortune trading radio stations and concert venues, now is building Function (x), an investment firm that plans to focus on media and entertainment ventures with special attention to digital and mobile technologies.

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Ratings Rat Race: ‘Idol’ Holds In Week 2

Nellie Andreeva

Fox woke up to some encouraging American Idol ratings news this morning — the reality hit drew a 9.2 rating/24 in adults 18-49 last night, down only 5% from last Wednesday’s premiere for the highest ever Week 2 vs. Week 1 retention. (Last year’s comparable drop was 14%). There is an asterisk – this year’s Episode 3 was a two-hour one while last year’s was 60 minutes. If only the first hour of last night’s show is counted, the drop would be 12%. Still, given the curiosity factor involved in people tuning in for the premiere to see the new judges, it is a good sign that with the novelty wearing off most viewers came back. Fox easily won the night with Idol.

CBS’ Live to Dance and NBC’s Chase, which were decimated by the premiere of Idol last Wednesday, recovered a bit. Live to Dance (1.1/3), which stars former Idol judge Paula Abdul, was up by a tenth at 8 PM, while NBC’s Chase (1.2/3) was up by two tenths at 9 PM. (The latter was more impressive as Chase‘s lead-in, reality show Minute to Win It (1.4/4) was actually down 13% from last week to tie its series low.) CBS’ drama Criminal Minds (3.2/8) was also up week-to-week, by 10%, but the network’s freshman Blue Bloods (2.0/6, 12 million) was flat in the demo from last week, proving to be impervious to lead-in or competition. In addition to a slightly … Read More »

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RATINGS RAT RACE: CBS Wins, ‘LUX’ Exits

Nellie Andreeva

The quiet before the storm. Not a whole lot happened last night ratings-wise as the networks are focusing on tonight’s return of Fox’s American Idol. CBS (3.2/9 in 18-49, 16.5 million) was once again the top network for the night, though it slipped a bit from last week’s big numbers. NCIS (4.1/11, 21 million) was down 9% in the demo, NCIS: LA (3.3/9, 17.3 million) was down 11%, and The Good Wife (2.1/6) was down 9% to tie its season low in 18-49. CBS won every hour in primetime in both total viewers and 18-49 (At 10 PM, The Good Wife was tied with NBC’s Parenthood in the demo.) With Parenthood (2.1/6, 5.6 million), and a two-hour Biggest Loser (2.9/8, 8.2 million), NBC finished second for the night with a 2.6/7 in 18-49 and 7.3 million. ABC rebounded from last Tuesday’s across-the-board series lows. No Ordinary Family (1.8/5) at 8 PM was up 20%, while V (2.0/5) at 9 PM climbed a tenth. AT 10 PM, the ABC News special The Congresswoman & The Astronaut (who comes up with those titles?!), about recovering Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her husband (1.3/4, 6.2 million), didn’t do much at 10 PM, up two tenths from the series low Detroit 1-8-7 posted in the hour last week. ABC finished tied with Fox for third place in 18-49 (1.7/5). Speaking of Fox, following a Glee repeat (1.4/4), game show Million Dollar Money Drop (1.9/5) … Read More »

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No Behind-the-Scenes ‘Idol’ Drama For Now

Nellie Andreeva

Despite a red-hot Glee, Fox’s fall lineup is shakier than expected as the network’s new series largely underperformed. That’s why a strong American Idol is crucial for Fox’s hopes to claim another season ratings win. But the talent show juggernaut finished last season at a record low, and lost its signature star Simon Cowell, and then embarked on a judges search that became a public spectacle. But now I’m hearing that, two weeks into the audition process for Season 10, the situation on the show seems to be settling down with no major controversies on the immediate horizon. Read More »

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Fox To Announce ‘Idol’ Judges Wednesday

Nellie Andreeva

American Idol host Ryan Seacrest will unveil the new panel of judges for the Fox reality show on Wednesday, September 22nd, at the Forum, the network said. With so much speculation about Idol‘s judges all summer, there is not much suspense left for what is expected to be an official introduction of singers Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler and veteran Randy Jackson. Unless there’s the addition of Elton John.

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Fox Confirms Kara DioGuardi Exits ‘Idol’

Nellie Andreeva

Fox just issued a statement confirming that Kara DioGuardi won’t be returning to American Idol next season. News comes as Jennifer Lopez is finalizing a deal to join the Fox series and amid speculation that Idol might be reverting to the original three-judge format. Also closing in on a deal for the reality series is Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler. And executive producer Nigel Lythgoe said last weekend he’s still trying to land Elton John. So Randy Jackson will be the only returning panelist  after Simon Cowell, Ellen DeGeneres, and now DioGuardi have gone. Read More »

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‘American Idol’ Deal Done For Steven Tyler

I’ve just confirmed from sources close to the singer that the “deal is done” for Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler to be one of the new judges despite having very little TV experience. He has played himself on a few tube episodes (Two And A Half Men and Lizzie McGuire) and been a presenter on countless music awards shows. So there’s no indication what kind of judge he would make. But music industry types I’ve spoken with stress that performers like Tyler often have a hard time openly criticizing other performers, especially up-and-comers. They find it hard to imagine he’ll fill the Simon Cowell “cruel to be kind” role on the show. As things stand now, Tyler will be  joining Jennifer Lopez on American Idol next season. Nigel Lythgoe a few days ago denied unconfirmed reports circulating that J-Lo may lose the job because of diva demands after she was offered the gig and accepted it. Fox et al would have to be idiots not to realize that asking J-Lo onto the show would mean inviting an entourage in tow. Meanwhile, Michael Ferrel, the new CEO of the American Idol producer CKX, said Fox expects to announce the replacement judges shortly after Labor Day on September 6th. Meanwhile, CKX still has no new deal for the 10th season of the show and negotiations between its 19 Entertainment with Fox and Fremantle are continuing. It expects Fox to renew its American Idol deal by the end of Q4 or early 2011 at … Read More »

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Nigel Lythgoe Inks Deal To Return To ‘Idol’

Nellie Andreeva

It looks like Fox will be able to confirm shortly at least one new member of the American Idol team for next season, returning executive producer Nigel Lythgoe whose deal has been completed and is expected to be announced tomorrow. At Fox’s TCA presentation on Monday, the network’s entertainment chairman Peter Rice stated that ”the only thing I an tell you with absolute certainty is there are no signed deals with anyone on either side of the camera who wasn’t on the show last year,” referring to judges as well as Lythgoe.  Read More »

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TCA: Fox Addresses ‘American Idol’ Rumors & More From The Network’s Exec Session

Nellie Andreeva

Anticipating an avalanche of American Idol-related questions, Fox Broadcasting’s entertainment chairman Peter Rice made an opening statement at the top of the network’s executive session. “The only thing I an tell you with absolute certainty is there are no signed deals with anyone on either side of the camera who wasn’t on the show last year,” he said, referring to judges as well as returning executive producer Nigel Lythgoe. Rice did confirm that Ellen DeGeneres met with him at the beginning of June. ”We talked about the season and her feelings about the season, the idea that she wasn’t comfortable and that it was not a good fit for her,” he said. “I tried to persuade her that it would be different in the future, but we ultimately came to an agreement. We were going to begin looking for new judges anyway, because Simon was leaving, so as that was going to play out over the summer, we came to an agreement to go to her and say: we can’t replace you, or we can move on without you.  [DeGeneres is in the middle of a 2-year deal with Idol.] That’s where we got to last week. We felt confident that we could come up with a panel that didn’t include Ellen as a judge, and  at the same time we knew we were coming here on Monday. We felt it was disingenuous to sit here and talk about Ellen being … Read More »

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TCA: No ‘Idol’ Judge News On Monday

Nellie Andreeva

Despite speculation about the new judges on American Idol reaching fever pitch, word is that Fox will not make any announcements at its TCA presentation Monday as previously anticipated. On the other hand, new ABC Entertainment Group president Paul Lee, who had been a question mark for ABC’s TCA session on Sunday, is now confirmed after his appointment was officially announced today.

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JENNIFER LOPEZ IS NEW ‘IDOL’ JUDGE! Closed Deal This Week; Replaces Ellen Who Wanted Out of Contract: “It’s Not Been Fun”

EXCLUSIVE UPDATE 6:30 PM: We’ve just learned the backstory of how Ellen DeGeneres bowed out of American Idol and who will be the new judge taking her place. It’s Jennifer Lopez, JENNIFER LOPEZ 2whose singing and acting career has been on the skids after her recent movie failed at the box office in the spring and she was dropped by her record company Sony Music Epic Records this past winter. We hear her manager Benny Medina (whom she once fired) orchestrated the meeting with the American Idol producers a month ago, and negotiations have been ongoing ever since. We’ve learned a deal was closed earlier this week under the utmost secrecy. Today’s news came shortly after Nigel Lythgoe returned to Idol as an executive producer. He has vowed to shake up the show’s team of judges in the wake of the departure of Simon Cowell, publicly stating that he always thought a panel of three and not 4 made the most sense.

Still to be decided is who will replace Simon Cowell. Everyone associated with the show wants Elton John, but we hear he’s asking for too much money and has too many touring commitments he can’t get out of. (Denials That Justin Or Elton Judging ‘Idol’) 2ND UPDATE: Tonight, unconfirmed reports say Idol has offered Cowell’s judge seat to Steven Tyler. 3RD UPDATE: And another unconfirmed report claimed judge Kara DioGuardi has been fired to bring the panel count down to just 3, not 4.

As for Ellen Degeneres, we’re told she wanted off the show two months ago and complained that Idol producers “couldn’t control Cowell”, one insider tells us. Least of all Cecile Frot-Coutaz, the CEO of FremantleMedia North America. “Cecile is doing X Factor with Simon, so she’s in his back pocket.” DeGeneres and her reps went in to to see Fox Broadcasting’s Entertainment Chairman Peter Rice and Alternative TV President Mike Darnell and asked to be let out of the year left on her contract. “She’s not comfortable. She’s not happy. It’s not been fun,” Fox was told.  But Rice and Darnell responded that, with Cowell leaving, “We can’t let you out now because it would be bad for our franchise. Give us a chance to figure out who we could get.” In the end, all the show’s producers – Fox, Fremantle, and 19 Entertainment – worked it out. “Peter Rice was awesome,” an insider tells us. “Ellen is thrilled and relieved.” We’ve learned that serious conversations took place between Idol and Jessica Simpson to replace Ellen. But once Jennifer Lopez was locked in this week, the DeGeneres announcement went out. Read More »

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Nigel Lythgoe Returns to ‘Idol’ As EP

Nellie Andreeva

He was the first major member of the American idol team to depart the show. Now former executive producer Nigel Lythgoe is finalizing a deal to return for the upcoming 10th season as the top-rated reality series is looking to shake off a lackluster Season 9 and to prepare for its first season without Simon Cowell on the judging panel. Lythgoe is expected to serve as an executive producer alongside Ken Warwick, who has been running Idol for the past 2 years, creator Simon Fuller and Cecile Frot-Coutaz. Lythgoe’s surprise exit from the show in the summer of 2008 was followed by the departure of Paula Abdul last summer over a salary dispute and the recent exit of Cowell, who will be launching X Factor on Fox in fall 2011.

Lythgoe, who helped build Idol into a reality powerhouse, has stayed in the Idol family with a deal at 19 Entertainment, which co-produces Idol with FremantleMedia. He also serves as executive producer/judge on 19′s Fox series So You Think You Can Dance. Because of his long-time Idol experience and his Cowell-like role on SYTYCD as an acerbic British judge, there has been some speculation that CAA-repped Lythgoe would be considered for Cowell’s spot but I hear his deal is for his EP services only. As for the high-profile search for Cowell’s replacement, it is still going on, and the network may not be able to lock in the new judge by … Read More »

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