Fox to counter ABC's 'American Idol' with new contest

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BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (AP) — Fox will counter its onetime powerhouse "American Idol" with a new singing contest, "The Four."

The network canceled its long-running "American Idol" last year because of dwindling ratings and rising costs, only to see it snapped up by ABC for an early 2018 debut.

Fox Television Group CEO Dana Walden, announcing the new series Tuesday, said there's room for a "fresh" take on the contest format as she defended the axing of "American Idol."

While other shows are "more about celebrity panels and less about star-making," Walden told a TV critics' meeting, "The Four" will be the opposite.

"Our show begins where the others end," she said, with four finalists pre-selected from auditions by a panel of industry experts. The singers will have to fend off weekly challenges from newcomers trying to replace them. Viewers who believe they "have the goods" can upload an audition video and possibly go from sitting on their couch one week to competing the next, Walden said.

The show's prize: a career guided by the show's panel, which Fox indicated is likely to be drawn from music producers, songwriters and perhaps a pop star-mentor.

Like "American Idol," which transferred a format tested in another country (Britain's "Pop Idol"), "The Four" is based on an Israeli show.

Walden struck a confident tone about chances for "The Four" in a field that will include the "American Idol" reboot and current singing contest champ "The Voice," which airs on NBC.

"I don't anticipate that we'll put it up against 'Voice' or 'American Idol' because we really believe in this show. We're not developing it to just try to create some noise in the same space," she said.

"The Four" will have a shorter season than other singing contests, part of the plan to make it an "event," said Rob Wade, president of alternative programming for the Fox network.

Wade said the moment when a challenger auditions against a finalist is "brilliantly dramatic" and exciting. "It's like 'Game of Thrones,' with better singing and less nudity," he added.

There were no second thoughts expressed by Walden about calling it quits on "Idol," although she said Fox was "taken aback" when producer FremantleMedia decided to bring it back so quickly after its much-hyped farewell season.

The series had become very expensive and its ratings had dropped to a fraction of what they were, creating "terrible" economics, she said. Fox tried and failed to work out a new format with the producer, she said.

When Fremantle put it back in the marketplace, ABC was more aggressive in picking it up, Walden said. Katy Perry was announced as a judge for the new "Idol," with Ryan Seacrest returning as host.

Specifics on the air date, panelists and host for "The Four" will be coming later, Fox said.

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