NATPE 2012: Frot-Coutaz Embraces Change at 'X Factor,' 'Idol' and at FremantleMedia North America
Says plans underway to stream or download 'Idol'
By Paige Albiniak -- Broadcasting & Cable, 1/25/2012 2:44:48 PMComplete Coverage: NATPE 2012
Get ready, X Factor fans, changes are on the way.
That's what Cecile Frot-Coutaz, president of FremantleMedia North America, told B&C Executive Editor Melissa Grego at a panel at NATPE in Miami on Wednesday. In fact, Frot-Coutaz was leaving South Beach to fly to London for two days of meetings with Simon Cowell and the X Factor team.
"We go through every aspect -- casting, tone, reality aspect, demos, our host, our judges -- and think about what we need to do differently. We dissect every different aspect," said Frot-Coutaz, who was awarded the Brandon Tartikoff Legacy Award on Tuesday evening for her contributions to the industry.
Frot-Coutaz, a direct and confident executive, makes no bones that some things need to change at the singing show that Cowell imported to Fox from the U.K.
"X Factor was a hit in numbers but it wasn't different enough," she told Grego. "It was different enough from Idol but I think The Voice and X Factor ran into each other on a lot of different aspects. We need to find out what's really specific about The X Factor and push those things forward. It's about making those things more distinctive."
"That's what we do on all of our shows. When the season is over, we review everything. That's not to say we are going to make changes for the sake of making changes, but we benefit from our experience. There's nothing to say that you have to stick with the same panel [of judges] for four or five years."
She was also upfront that Cowell telling the world that X Factor would be even bigger than American Idol (the show he left to do X Factor) was a "silly thing to say."
"You can't achieve what he achieves unless you believe you are going to get there," Frot-Coutaz says. "Simon lives on a Simon planet and that planet is a very ambitious one. The beauty of the guy is that he takes you [with him to that] planet. That's why he can achieve great success -- because he takes people with him. Anyone who achieves that level of success walks a fine line between genius and a little bit of craziness."
For all of those reasons, Frot-Coutaz admits that she and Cowell don't always get along. "Sometimes we fall out, and sometimes he doesn't talk to me for two or three weeks. When we're talking, he talks to me every day or he texts me. It used to bother me in the beginning but now it doesn't. I know it will pass."
As for FremantleMedia's giant hit, American Idol, even the unflappable Frot-Coutaz has her moments of insecurity. One of those happened when Idol decided to replace most of its judging panel prior to last season.
"I was terrified. I had a really bad summer, a really horrible summer. The world had ripped off the show, we were trying to find someone to replace Simon, and ultimately there isn't anyone to replace Simon. But you have no choice. Your lead guy is gone and the show is going on and you have no choice."
Lucky for Fremantle, Fox and Frot-Coutaz, the addition of Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez last season seemed to reignite the show, although it premiered this season to the biggest decline in the show's decade-long history, with a year-to-year drop of 24%.
Speaking of Idol, Frot-Coutaz says episodes of the singing hit may soon be available for online streaming for authenticated viewers: "Fox is putting plans in place to stream or download it, but it's not up and running yet."
Those plans are not finalized, according to Fox, although the show is available for three days after its primetime run on video on demand for subscribers of Armstrong Cable, AT&T U-Verse, Bright House Networks, Cablevision, Cox, Mediacom, Time Warner Cable, Verizon FiOS and Comcast's Xfinity TV. If content airs within the three-day commercial rating, making it available after the first broadcast window is not an issue, said Frot-Coutaz.
With all that she has on her plate -- executive producing Idol, X Factor, America's Got Talent and running FremantleMedia North America -- changes to her job may be coming soon as well, she said.
"It's tough and it's getting untenable and I will have to figure something out," she said. "I'm not as day to day as some of the other executive producers but it's not quite working. I have some ideas though."
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