Friday, January 17, 2014
PASADENA, Calif. (AP) — ABC is launching its own entry into the crowded market of singing competition shows, hoping to attract viewers with a format that rewards their instant feedback.
The series, "Rising Star," will begin in June, said Paul Lee, ABC entertainment president.
Based on highlights shown to reporters on Friday, the show is visually arresting. A singer performs in front on a wall filled with dozens of video screens, where pictures of viewers pop up when they vote in favor of the performance. If the contestant reaches a certain number of positive votes, the wall rises to reveal a live studio audience.
There will be a group of four judges, who haven't been selected yet, but their opinions have much less weight than the audience's, Lee said.
ABC is adapting a format that was successful in Israel and attracted a bidding war when it was made available to U.S. television networks, he said.
"It's sort of a combination of a massive talent show and 'The Gong Show,' " Lee said.
Singing competitions already fill broadcast network schedules, and many in the industry wonder if viewers are tiring of them. "American Idol" launched its new season on Wednesday before 15.2 million viewers. That's down 15 percent from last January's season debut and the smallest audience for an "American Idol" launch since the series' first year in 2002, the Nielsen company said.
"Idol" has been hurt by NBC's "The Voice," which continues to gain momentum. Its run of shows last fall averaged 14.8 million viewers, up 4 percent from the spring. Fox's "The X-Factor" with Simon Cowell has plunged so precipitously in the ratings that there is doubt about whether it will return.
Lee's hope is that viewers are tired of the formats of "Idol" and "The X-Factor," but not necessarily of singing competitions.
"We definitely felt it was so different, definitely a 21st century show, that we felt it was a risk worth taking," he said.
Producers have developed a simple app that makes it easy for viewers to participate, Lee said. One wrinkle producers will need to work on — and they haven't fully figured it out — is how to include West Coast viewers in the process. Prime-time shows that air live in the East and Midwest are frequently shown on tape delay in the West because of the time difference.