Could it be? The man behind the show seen in millions of TV homes each week is, himself, camera shy? American Idol creator Simon Fuller admits it’s true. But from his position offstage, Fuller can revel in the success of Idol as it reaches the May 21 climax of its seventh season.
Idol continues to drive the Fox network to the top of the ratings. The show, for example, drew 27.8 million viewers the night of the Super Tuesday presidential primaries in February, according to Nielsen. The 2007 finale was seen by more than 33 million viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research, and a total of 74 million votes were cast.
Fuller’s franchise has spread to more than 100 territories on six continents.
And with its winning formula of unknown talent, love-’em-or-hate-’em judges and viewers as voting A&R reps, the show continues to shatter traditional music industry dogma on discovering new artists. Fuller, while delighted with the success, is not one given to nostalgia.
“American Idol was purely invented to give me new leverage in the music industry, without my having to go cap in hand to the record companies,” he says.
The partnership between Fuller’s 19 Recordings and Sony BMG has yielded a string of platinum-plus albums by Idol winners and finalists, according to Nielsen SoundScan: Carrie Underwood’s Some Hearts (6.4 million units), Kelly Clarkson’s Breakaway (4 million), Daughtry’s self-titled debut album (4 million), Clay Aiken’s Measure Of A Man (2.8 million) and Fantasia’s Free Yourself (1.8 million). Self-titled debuts by Taylor Hicks and 2007 winner Jordin Sparks have sold 700,000 and 655,000 units, respectively.
Fuller hopes to perpetuate his kind of music TV yet again with a new series that 19 Entertainment will develop for NBC. Now, Fuller is ready to expand his TV horizons, seeking new audiences across the gamut of broadcast and cable networks.
A show about Ruud Gullit’s first year as coach of the Los Angeles Galaxy soccer team has been shot and sold to 32 international markets and is expected to air on Fox Sport or ESPN later this year. A pilot for the Fuller-created real-time medical drama Austin Golden Hour, which marries the drama of ER with the tick-tock of 24, was under consideration at the CW at press time. And a U.S. adaptation of the irreverent British series Little Britain is in production for HBO.
Of course, there’s always the possibility of a one-off show for a cause Fuller cares deeply about. The celebrity-fueled charitable powerhouse Idol Gives Back, for one, has raised more than $160 million, according to 19 Entertainment.