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American Idol on ABC – My prescription for a successful reboot

The big news was made official yesterday on Good Morning America, the music competition reality TV show American Idol is coming to ABC with the first shows airing before the end of this year. The show is expected to get a makeover that includes new judges and even a new host as Ryan Seacrest just accepted a seat beside Kelly Ripa in New York.

“’American Idol’ is a pop culture staple that left the air too soon,” Channing Dungey, president of ABC Entertainment, said in a statement. “ABC is the right home to reignite the fan base. We are thrilled viewers will once again share in these inspiring stories of people realizing their dreams.”

The question remains, what will Disney and ABC do to revive interest in a show that was down nearly 75% off the top of its ratings boom when 40 million people turned in to see the finale episodes.

When American Idol first started there was no Instagram, Facebook or YouTube. The success of Kelly Clarkson, the show’s first idol, was judged on how much air-time she got on the radio and record sales (there was that horrible movie too). Today it’s all about online streaming services and YouTube.

The new American Idol should embrace Facebook and Instagram (and Snapchat if it’s still around) and give its finalists branded pages where fans can follow and engage with their favorite stars. The heart of the show is still the competition. Therefore, elimination voting would be enabled via those pages (perhaps via a Facebook Live javascript poll).

By the second half of American Idol’s first run, many stars on the show had already built a following on YouTube which helped them in early voting. That will no doubt be true this time around too. The new series should embrace YouTube and use it to engage with fans in daily vlog style videos, plus videos of the contestants in rehearsals. Closer to the end of the competition, music videos should be uploaded to the page, plus clips from the American Idol shows for sharing.

The ability to build and keep a social media audience is a key part of any modern American Idol. So training on social should definitely be a part of the season and the show may want to consider adding a social media manager to pair with each finalist. Just like there was a musical coach, existing YouTube stars should be brought in to coach the future winners (good thing Disney owns Maker Studios).

Speaking of Disney, Disney’s Hollywood Studios used to have an American Idol Experience attraction. The stage show had its flaws, but I was a fan. Contestants in the park version actually won a golden ticket that gave them an express meeting with the real show’s producers. My son auditioned and made it to the stage for the Junior edition week, which was a pretty cool experience.

While it will take great ratings before Disney considers another Idol attraction, I’d like to see some connection with Disney’s theme parks beyond just holding some auditions there (as was rumored by TMZ). Perhaps an American Idol concert event where the final 12 perform in the parks for fans.

ABC is expected to acquire fewer scripted dramas this year since it now has one of the most successful reality tv shows in its stable. Will you be watching??