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ABC Chief Channing Dungey: ‘It’s the Perfect Time’ to Revive ‘American Idol’

Variety logo Variety 5/16/2017 Daniel Holloway
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A day after Fox executives weighed in on ABC’s move to revive “American Idol,” ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey defended the network’s decision to bring the show back so soon after its 2016 “farewell season” on Fox.

“From where we sit, we feel like it’s the perfect time to bring this series back,” Dungey said Tuesday in a conference call with reporters ahead of the network’s upfront presentation to advertisers at Lincoln Center. “What I love about it personally is that it’s about heartfelt, uplifting stories of people who make their dreams come true. And honestly, that’s our sweet spot at ABC.”

Dungey’s comments came just a day after Fox Television Group CEO Dana Walden declared that it was too soon for Fox to revive the series, telling reporters prior to her network’s upfront: “It would be extremely fraudulent to bring the show back quickly.” ABC outbid Fox to land the show from FremantleMedia and Core Media Group. Walden said Monday that Fox wanted to revive the show in 2020. Sources familiar with the negotiations contend that Fox was looking to bring the show back in the 2018-19 season.

ABC does not yet have deals in place with Ryan Seacrest, who is in talks to return as host of “Idol,” or with any judges or other onscreen talent.

“We are in a number of key conversations, but we don’t have anything to announce on that at this time,” Dungey said.

The ABC chief did, however, hint at a new look for the show, which ran for 15 seasons on Fox.

“In terms of format changes to make it feel fresh, absolutely,” Dungey said. “This is going to be ABC’s version of ‘American Idol,’ so we are very excited. I think you guys will see when we unveil our version of the show that it is going to have a very clear ABC hallmark and brand on it at that point.”

Dungey also spoke briefly about the process of securing “Idol.” The network had originally been cool to the idea of becoming the new home of the long-running series, which was for eight consecutive seasons the highest-rated show on television.

“Some of the ideas that were discussed in the initial proposals kind of didn’t feel like they made sense for us,” Dungey said. “But that was just an early, preliminary inquiry. Once we sat down with Fremantle and Core to engage in serious conversations, I think we realized what a perfect fit this could be for us.”

The 16th season of “American Idol” is slated to premiere in midseason on ABC.

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