Monday, April 19, 2010

"A Slightly Different Approach" to "Idol Gives Back"

Last week, the media had the chance to talk to Cecile Frot-Coutaz, CEO of FremantleMedia North America and executive producer of “American Idol,” about “Idol Gives Back.” She didn’t offer a lot of specifics, but we did get some useful information.

And yes, some reporters tried to talk about potential replacements for Simon, but those questions got shut down…

Here’s a sample of what she had to say…

On whether someone will be eliminated Wednesday: “We did ‘Idol Gives Back’ twice. As you probably remember, we did the first installment three years ago and the second one two years ago and we did both ways. The first time we did it we did an extended results show, which is what we’re doing this year. The second time, we did a separate episode and we found that it worked better for us to do it as an extended results show and to make it more organic to ‘American Idol’ than to make it a separate show. And I thought with Wednesdays as our results, we do have to do the results. And within two hours, we obviously have time to cover both the charity portion of the event and the results portion. And we’ll weave it through as we normally do these things. It’s a blend of entertainment and a blend of actual ‘Idol’ competition. Of course, some acts will be dedicated to the results.”

On whether not eliminating anyone the first year hurt the ratings: “Well, what we find with “Idol,” actually any of these shows, is the competition episodes work better than the specials. So you’re right.”

On taking a different approach this year: “Economically, this is a tough year for this country and other countries around the world. We’re also going into this…with a slightly different approach. We did incredibly well both times. We raised a lot of money and we’re hoping obviously that we do incredibly well this year as well, but we’re very aware at this time that the circumstances are very different than when we first started doing this. That’s the other reason why we’re just extending our results show and we’re doing it in a little bit of a more low key way than last time when we did it.”

On choosing the charities: “Historically, we’ve done 50 percent to Africa and 50 percent to domestic charities. This year, a little bit more weighted toward domestic causes because we feel it is an American show. We’re in the U.S. It’s a very, very tough couple of years in this country and that it’s only fair that we focus on U.S. causes as well as some big international causes. So that’s the overall premise. As you probably know, ‘IGB’ is targeting primarily kids—kids, poverty, and health are really the issues that we’ve looked at and from the beginning, when we set it up, we were always focused on these issues. So that’s the other criteria that we apply when we choose the charities.

And then we’re three partners. There’s Fox, Fremantle and AT&T, and we’ve each chosen charities that we wanted to donate to. And a lot of charities are returning charities. And again, looking at just covering kids. Hence, Save the Children USA. Health with the Children’s Health Fund. Big international issues. There’s malaria where you have Malaria No More. So those are the criteria.”

On fitting it all in: “Whereas, there’s something—we have results. We have to make time within the program for the results so we have less air time to dedicate to IGB and as I said earlier, we’re conscious of the …that obviously this is different times and so it’s a little bit more. We try to do it in a little bit more of a kind of a low key way. And that’s the other part of it. But the main part is just the sheer mass of the program time. And if anything, we did it earlier where we’re really pressed for time, even with the fewer performers. We’re still really, really pressed for time in terms of our—looking at the running order yesterday and we’re going into it several minutes over already.”

Photo Credit: Michael Becker/FOX