CKx, the company that owns American Idol is to undergo a major retooling, according to a report from the New York Times. That is, after the company itself undergoes its own reorganization. The company will consider changes to the voting system as part of the “refresh.”
CKx, owned by the capital equity firm Apollo Global Management, will be rechristened Thursday as Core Media Group. Among its initial plans are a full-scale review, in conjunction with executives from the Fox network, of “American Idol,” where ratings dropped by more than 30 percent this season. Within the next few weeks, the company also plans to acquire what the new president of Core, Marc Graboff, described as a “high-profile production company that has produced 25 series for cable networks.”
Core plans on managing Phillip and Jessica? Simon Fuller and his group, XIX, manage last year’s winner and runner up. There are also plans to exploit the show further:
“We will certainly manage Phillip Phillips and Jessica Sanchez,” Mr. Graboff said of the two recent finalists. He also has plans to exploit the show further as either cable or digital programming, including a potential series based on behind-the-scenes video of the contest and this year’s national tour.
I’ve been waiting for the show to be re-run on cable. Every other singing show does. Although, I’m not sure how much potential a behind-the-scenes show or concert special has at this point. They need to focus on strengthening the core product before they diversify.
“ ‘Idol’ is still the gold standard,” Mr. Graboff said. “It’s very viable, but it definitely needs to be refreshed and it will be.”
To that end, he said he had recruited the format’s creator, Simon Fuller, who departed in one of several changes in the management structure of CKx, to come back and submit ideas for how to tweak the “Idol” format. Some of these may be based on alterations instituted by international editions of the show. (It is sold in about 100 territories.)
Simon Fuller will be consulted. I wonder if Nigel Lythgoe will be part of the “refresh” team? He wasn’t very happy when FOX executives suggested that the show should have been rebooted again last year in advance of new competition from The Voice and X Factor.
One of the areas Mr. Fuller is closely looking at, Mr. Graboff said, is the voting process. As many critics have noted, the show has produced five similar winners in a row. “They’re being called W.G.W.G.’s — white guys with guitars,” Mr. Graboff said. These outcomes have been interpreted as a result of so many young girls voting for the cutest male performer.
As for changes in the judging panel, Mr. Graboff said those calls are Fox’s to make.
An obstacle to changing the voting system is that AT&T is a major sponsor. Unlimited text messaging throughout the run of the series translates into revenue for the telecommunications company. I can’t imagine they would be thrilled with attempts to limit the voting.
Honestly, I don’t believe that limiting the voting would change the outcomes of the competition, I really don’t. Changing the voting system is not at the top of my personal tweak list. Actually, I think unlimited voting is one way to keep viewers engaged. The more a fan believes they can control an outcome (I’ m going to vote 1000 times for my favorite!) the more they’re drawn in. DON’T screw with America’s ability to control the outcome! that would include giving the judges more power over who advances.
I hope Core (Aka CKx) doesn’t panic and go crazy with the tweaks. The audition rounds need to be refreshed. The formula has become tedious. But ANY changes that are made need to keep the contestants at the forefront. The American Idol formula is the best because it allows viewers to become and stay INVESTED in the contestants up until the very end. Any changes Core makes needs to strengthen that investment, not weaken it.