When “American Idol” returns next season, its format will look different, Fox Chairman Kevin Reilly said on a Monday upfronts conference call. For starters, the network is committing just 37 hours worth of coverage, versus the usual 50-plus.
One thing that probably will not change are the faces behind the judges’ table. All are “likely” to return, Reilly said, though they won’t officially confirm that for some time.
The network chief admitted that “Idol” will never be the ratings giant that it once was — and COO Joe Earley blamed “saturation” for the competition’s fall-off — but insisted that the property can still be “potent,” a word that was used several times on the call about the upcoming line-up.
There were some bright spots to share: Reilly and Earley touted other programming set to debut in the 2014-2015 season on their network, beginning with Batman prequel “Gotham,” which Reilly said “delivers on its promise” and feels right at 16 episodes.
The leadership team at Fox seems united in their very high hopes for Octavia Spencer vehicle “Red Band Society,” which Reilly compared to “90210,” “The OC” and “Glee.”
Speaking of “Glee,” Reilly addressed the previous two-year pickup when prompted by a journalist. The executive called it a business decision, and chose his words very carefully when discussing the possibility that the high school drama may not last the entirety of its 22-episodes as ordered.
On “Broadchurch” adaptation, “Gracepoint,” Reilly said that it will be as good as the original, with a new twist and ending.
He also spoke of a return to Fox’s roots with a mixture of animation and live-action comedy on the new Sunday nights, which will feature Golden Globe-winner “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” and newcomer “Mulaney.” The critically acclaimed Andy Samberg cop comedy will hopefully get a measurable Nielsen boost from viable lead-in “Family Guy” and football spillover, Reilly said.
Of course, traditional TV ratings can be somewhat antiquated to the youngest-skewing network, which Reilly made a point of, touting the value of Fox’s multi-platform viewing.
In that spirit of making everything count, Reilly told journalists that broadcast networks can no longer afford to take time periods — like the summer — off: “June is just as important as January,” Reilly said. “We really want to be a 12-month network.”