American TV is notorious for remaking British shows. While it might seem like American Idol kicked off the trend of reality singing-competition shows — it was actually the UK version, Pop Idol. The show was created in 2001 by Simon Fuller and ran for two seasons before being replaced with Simon Cowell‘s The X Factor. The prolific TV producer explained that the inspiration behind the Idol franchise was to bring televised talent shows to the next level.
“My show brought together many different elements to one show: Mass auditions, the search for a new star, judges, audience voting,” Simon Cowell explained in Variety. “We created this huge live TV event drawing more from a sporting concept of true competition than a conventional talent show. I then added the drama of backstories and the real-life soap opera of the unfolding real-time events. It was a reality music competition and soap opera brought together in one massive show that later became known as Pop Idol.“
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He revealed that after the show was a huge hit in the UK, he attempted to sell it to the US… but failed miserably. But, that didn’t deter Simon from trying again. Eventually, he began seeing some real interest in his idea, specifically from Fox. “In television, we defined the term ‘reality competition show,’ pioneered audience interactivity with our phone and text voting and innovated sponsorship activity with our unique integrations,” he continued. “Since our first show, we have exceeded all our ratings expectations.”
He continued, “In music, I’ve proved beyond any reasonable doubt that the right kind of television show can sell music better than any other medium. We have brought connectivity from the viewer to the artist and created an unprecedented promotional and marketing platform that speaks directly to the consumer. This has translated into tens of millions of sales in both music and concert tickets and has created endless other commercial opportunities.”
If you don’t want to take Simon’s word — look at the numbers. Even though Pop Idol was short-lived, American Idol ran for 15 seasons on Fox and the new reboot is currently airing on ABC. Plus, it’s been adapted in more than 46 regions around the world, with various versions broadcasting in 150 countries. An estimated 6.5 billion viewers around the world have watched the show. Talk about a hit!