November 10, 2010 / 5:19 AM / 7 years ago

CKX chief sees "Idol" renewal talks in early 2011

NEW YORK (Hollywood Reporter) - CKX Inc., the company behind "American Idol," expects to start serious talks with the Fox television network about a renewal of the show half-way into this coming 10th season, or around late February to early March, chief executive Michael Ferrel said Tuesday.

Given a long search process for new "Idol" judges and management changes at Fox, previous renewal talks were never concluded.

Once the new season has a few weeks of broadcasts, the two sides will also be better to evaluate ratings trends.

Fox's current "Idol" deal ends after this coming season.

On a conference call to talk about his company's earnings, Ferrel also touted positive developments in the production of the hit show.

Returned executive producer Nigel Lythgoe "is doing a good job of integrating both Steven Tyler and Jennifer (Lopez)," he said, citing recaps from auditions that Lythgoe has sent him about the interplay between the two new "Idol" judges.

"They will be well poised to continue to be the top-rated show in 2011," Ferrel said.

Management said it expects significant upside to next year's financials from a restructuring at "Idol" producer 19 Entertainment, on which it has focused and which it recently said will yield annual savings of $20 million. Ferrel said the staff was reduced by more than 50 percent - from 244 to 95.

The company closed the 19 Entertainment London office and a separate New York office at the end of October. Staff is now concentrated in Los Angeles where they are close to the show.

CKX recently said it had ended talks about a potential sale of the company. Management reiterated that the company's board of directors felt it wouldn't get the value it deserves in a sale and wanted to refocus on the business at hand. But the company wasn't shutting the door to possible future bids that may come up.

Editing by Bob Tourtellotte

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