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Fox Developing New Singing Competition (EXCLUSIVE)

Variety logo Variety 7/3/2017 Daniel Holloway
© Provided by Variety

American Idol” is set to return this season on ABC, but the network that was its previous home isn’t keeping its voice down.

Fox is developing a new singing competition from Israeli producer and distributor Armoza Formats, Variety has learned. Although no series order has yet been finalized, development has accelerated since May, when ABC closed a deal to bring “American Idol” back to television just two seasons after Fox canceled the long-running franchise.

The Armoza project is a variation on classic shiny-floor singing competitions, one in which the show’s four finalists are selected in the premiere episode. New contestants then challenge the finalists each week to steal one of the four slots. The winner is named in the season finale.

Armoza made its first sale of the format in April, in France with production company Satisfaction. The show has been being shopped internationally under the title “The Final Four,” but will not air in the U.S. under that name so as to avoid confusion with the NCAA men’s and women’s college basketball tournaments. The still-untitled series could be the first show developed under new alternative programming chief Rob Wade, who joined the network in February, to make it to air.

“American Idol” ended a 15-season run on Fox in 2016, with the network canceling the show after watching it suffer ratings declines and slip from its perch as television’s highest-rated series, a position it held for eight consecutive seasons, beginning in 2003-04.

But Fox struggled to develop new series to compensate for the loss of “Idol,” which still ranked among broadcast’s higher-rated shows through its final season. The network made a late bid for the “Idol” reboot after FremantleMedia began shopping it earlier this year, but was rebuffed in favor of ABC.

If Fox were to premiere its new singing competition at midseason, the show would find itself in the same calendar span in which “Idol” aired. A January debut would give Fox the ability to promote the new series during the NFC playoffs. It would also put the show on the air ahead of ABC’s “Idol” reboot, which is expected to premiere in spring, 2018.

ABC’s deal to bring back “Idol” set off a scramble for talent in the competition-show space. ABC and FremantleMedia have secured Katy Perry to serve as a judge on “Idol” in a deal that gives her $25 million for the show’s first season back. The network and producer are also in advanced talks with Ryan Seacrest to return as host, with a deal set to be announced as early as this week.

NBC, meanwhile, has locked up “Idol” alums Kelly Clarkson and Jennifer Hudson to serve as coaches on upcoming seasons of its singing-competition series, “The Voice.”

No new singing competition has been successfully launched on broadcast since “The Voice” in 2011. The most recent effort, ABC’s “Boy Band,” has fared poorly since its premiere in June, averaging a 0.6 rating in the 18-49 demo and 2.8 million total viewers according to Nielsen live-plus-same day numbers.

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