Fox‘s reality chief Mike Darnell, well known for his premiere anxiety, slept only an hour last night, nervously awaiting the ratings for the Season 12 debut of American Idol with new judges Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj and Keith Urban. When they came in this morning, Idol posted a 6.0/16 among Adults 18-49 and 17.9 million viewers, down 19% from last year’s opener but still higher-rated in the demo than ABC, NBC and CBS combined. “I’m relieved this morning,” Darnell said. “We knew the show would be down but god bless it did a very good number; it was much bigger than The Voice’s premiere.” He attributed the decline, despite the infusion of new judges, to having two singing competition series both in the fall (The Voice, X Factor) and the spring (The Voice, American Idol), in addition to America’s Got Talent in the summer. As a result, “they are all eroding,” Darnell said.
He is encouraged by early reaction and optimistic about Idol’s ratings performance this season. “There is so much talk and buzz about the new judging panel that I’m bullish that we will cut the (ratings) deficit,” Darnell said. He teased the much talked-about feud storyline between diva judges Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj, which he said starts at the Chicago auditions and culminates in Charlotte. He also touted the talent, highlighting a heavily stuttering contestant on tonight’s episode who Darnell believes will have a “Susan Boyle moment and will go viral,” a reference to the unassuming Britain’s Got Talent contestant who became a global Internet star overnight. “We have several really good contestants, and the show is more dynamic with the judges; it feels very refreshed,” Darnell said, teasing a format change that he believes would boost the live shows. But most of all, he bets on new judges, especially Mariah and Nicki, to bring in viewers in the elimination rounds. “I can’t edit the live shows,” he said.”Whatever passion is on that panel will come out.”
‘X Factor’ Premiere Falls Short
It’s been an exhausting week for Fox’s reality chief Mike Darnell, who hasn’t slept much since the end of last week as he also oversaw the network’s Emmy telecast on Sunday. And he barely got some shut-eye last night, awaiting the ratings for the premiere of Simon Cowell’s The X Factor. They came in below most expectations: a 4.2 rating/12 share in adults 18-49 and 12.1 million viewers in the fast nationals, falling short of the January season premiere of American Idol (9.7/26, 21.6 million viewers in the fast nationals) as well as the April debut of NBC’s The Voice (5.1/13, 11.8 million) in the demo. (In the finals, X Factor is expected to go up 2 tenths to a 4.4 rating, though the other 2 shows also were adjusted up in the finals). Cowell had been talking about his goals of beating Idol in the ratings and averaging some 20 million viewers for The X Factor. Darnell dismisses that as “Simon’s showmanship, something you’ve got to love him for.” But “we lived with the reality that there is an enormous interest in every show during premiere week, and honestly, we’re just relieved this morning. Other than crazy expectations, this is a very good premiere.”
Darnell points to the fact that fall has been traditionally tough for Fox and that The X Factor delivered Fox’s best premiere Wednesday ratings in 18 years and was the network’s most-watched fall debut in five years. “If it stays close to a 4 (rating in 18-40) for the 40 hours it’s on the air, that would be amazing for us,” he said. He declined to address the higher premiere number for NBC’s upstart The Voice, but I hear Fox’s explanation is that, because of Idol, there is a built-in appetite for singing competitions in midseason that might have helped The Voice. Read More »
After lengthy negotiations, Fox today officially announced what everyone already knew by now: that Jennifer Lopez will return as a judge on American Idol next season alongside Randy Jackson and Steven Tyler. The upcoming 11th season of Idol, … Read More »
Ray Richmond is contributing to Deadline’s coverage of TCA.
TCA: Fox Sets Date For ‘X-Factor’ Finale
UPDATED: The incomparable Simon Cowell met the TCA press from afar — via satellite from an undisclosed location that looked suspiciously like a luxury yacht at sea — to promote his latest Fox singing competition to hit America, The X Factor, which arrives needing little plugging. Early on, he confirmed that he’s in talks with Mariah Carey for a mentor-type role on the series that will air Tuesday and Wednesday nights each week beginning Sept. 21. “There are certain sections of the show that I’m hoping Mariah will get involved in,” he said. “She’s been enthusiastic (to be a part of the show) from day one. But then she selfishly got pregnant, which is why she didn’t end up as a judge.”
Cowell also was asked early on in the session to address the Cheryl Cole fiasco, wherein the popular judge on the British X Factor was brought to the U.S. version, only to get bounced after a single taping. “A few of us made the decision while we were filming the show that we felt Cheryl was going to be more comfortable doing the UK show than the American show. Unfortunately, when the story went public, negotiations fell apart. But she was offered the chance to come back to America. But for certain reasons, she decided not to. I guess that’s what happens when you make reality TV. Real things happen. It doesn’t always go your way.” Cowell dismissed speculation that any friction between Cole and fellow judge Paula Abdul may have played a role in Cole’s ouster. “If not getting along with Paula was a factor, I wouldn’t be on the show,” he said. Read More »
The British press have their long knives out humiliating Fox’s Mike Darnell over the near-decision to replace their sweetheart Cheryl Cole as a judge on the U.S. version of The X Factor. Of course, it took Fox Broadcasting boss Peter Rice … Read More »
Fox reps have confirmed a TMZ report that actor Charlie Sheen met on Thursday with several top Fox executives. I have the details. The sitdown, which happened on the Fox lot, was set up by Fox Sports for Sheen to speak … Read More »
Fox’ Midseason Schedule
“We have been looking at Thursday for a long time,” Fox’s reality chief Mike Darnell said. “It is a tough nut to crack, and if you want … Read More »
UPDATE: At a press conference following the brief Idol judge unveiling ceremony, Fox’s president of alternative programming Mike Darnell dismissed speculation that negotiations with new judge Jennifer Lopez took so long because of special demands by the singer/actress. “There were no diva demands,” he said. “These were easy, comfortable deals.” However, unlike the pact for new judge Steve Tyler, Lopez’s deal for Idol does include a first-look film and TV deal at Fox for her production company. However, later, a top Fox executive confirmed Nikki’s reporting that Team Lopez did indeed make big demands. “But they’re supposed to,” the exec chortled.
Idol producers shed some light on the the upcoming season, which feels like a reboot with the 2 new judges, plus new in-house mentor Interscope’s Jimmy Iovine, newly returning executive producer Nigel Lythgoe, and new music partner Universal. The producers went out of their way to stress that there will be no judge taking over the villain role played on the show by Simon Cowell for the first 9 seasons. “It’s not about role playing, it’s about [judges] playing themselves,” Lythgoe said. But later a Fox exec explained that Iovine, a music industry veteran, would fit the bill by giving the young singers a dose of brutal honesty when he advised them and assessed their performances in offstage sessions that will be shown during the broadcast. Iovine’s role, therefore, will be crucial to the show’s dynamic. When asked how Idol will deal with not having Cowell, Lythgoe responded: “You obviously haven’t met Jimmy.”
Sources told Nikki as far back as January that Idol was looking at the 56-year-old Iovine, the inspiration for Eminem’s song “Jimmy Crack Corn” (which also features 50 Cent). The deal was sealed when Idol’s 19 Entertainment entered into a multiyear agreement with Universal Music Group to have Interscope Geffen A&M market, promote, and distribute albums globally from American Idol’s finalists and winning contestants across a broad array of retail and new media platforms. Iovine has been chairman of Interscope-Geffen-A&M since 2001. He was born in Brooklyn-born and began as a recording engineer in the mid-1970s working with John Lennon and Bruce Springsteen. He went on to produce albums for U2, Tom Petty Read More »
Fox’s reality guru Mike Darnell is closing in on a 20-year anniversary at the network. Darnell has inked a new three-year contract to continue as president of alternative programming. That will bring his tenure at Fox to a whooping 19 years. … Read More »