After Watching American Idol Go to ABC, Fox Counters With a New Musical Competition Show

In The Four, a quartet of 'finalists' will defend themselves from new challengers each week

Fox chief Dana Walden said The Four will be very different than American Idol, which aired on Fox for 15 seasons. Getty Images
Headshot of Jason Lynch

Fox said goodbye to American Idol last year after 15 seasons and now is watching its long-running hit migrate to ABC this midseason. So the network countered today with the creation of a new singing competition series.

Called The Four, the series will start with four finalists chosen from their auditions. The show “begins where most competitions end,” the network said in a press release. Each week, members of the quartet will be challenged by new singers trying to replace them.

Throughout the season, viewers will be able to submit audition videos and possibly be picked as a challenger on the show. Audiences can watch the streamed auditions and help decide which hopefuls will make it onto The Four.

“It’s not going to feel like another version of a format you’ve seen before,” said FOX TV Group chairman and CEO Dana Walden at the Television Critics Association’s summer press tour.

Fox did not say when the show would launch or what its “panel of industry experts” would look like. But Walden added, “I don’t anticipate that we’ll put it against The Voice and American Idol, because we really believe in this show. Its concept feels fresh and timely, and it has inherent urgency.”

Music competition shows “have become much more about celebrity panels, and much less about star-making,” said Walden, taking a shot at both The Voice and ABC’s Idol revival, which signed Katy Perry as its first judge.

In May, Walden was unusually frank with reporters about why the upcoming American Idol ended up on ABC instead of Fox, where the show ran for 15 seasons.

“We felt it was too early to bring the show back, and all of our research and all of our fan forums supported that notion. We did not see the fan excitement and enthusiasm for that show to come back that Fremantle [Media North America, Idol’s producer] did. We just had a different set of facts,” said Walden.

Within a month or two after American Idol’s finale last spring, Fox met with FremantleMedia, which was “determined to get this show back on the air as quickly as possible,” said Walden. But Fox, which spent $25 million to market what it called the final season, felt “like it would be extremely fraudulent to bring the show back quickly,” she said.

Still, as ABC and FremantleMedia seemed close to a deal, Fox reached out again, with an offer to revive the show in 2020, which Walden said was “a respectful amount of time to wait in between rebooting Idol for fans who heard our message clearly that we presented a farewell season.”

@jasonlynch Jason Lynch is TV Editor at Adweek, overseeing trends, technology, personalities and programming across broadcast, cable and streaming video.