The state of entertainment properties and production companies has changed a lot over the past few decades. If you take a look at the number of production studios that were releasing films between 1990 and 2020, you'll see that it has shrunk considerably. And while there are new film businesses creating inventive projects, like A24, things have become homogenized for the most part. Just take a look at how much Disney owns — but does it own American Idol?
Does Disney own 'American Idol'?
While Disney has been an entertainment juggernaut for decades and decades, there's no doubt it grew its powers and audience reach to new heights after it took ownership over Marvel and the Star Wars franchise. Then it seemed like The Mouse was going to gobble up all other entertainment properties, like 20th Century Fox.
It's the reason why X-Men films weren't being included as part of the greater Marvel Cinematic Universe and the past few films featuring mutants felt worlds apart from the successful crop of MCU titles like the Avengers series of films and all of the standalone superhero flicks inundating theaters (and now streaming services) that get constant play.
So what parts of Fox does Disney own and what does it not own?
It's important to note that Disney doesn't own all of Fox, but 60 percent of all of 21st Century Fox. According to NPR, "Disney, which already owns the Pixar, Marvel and the Star Wars brands, will now also get Deadpool and the Fox-owned Marvel characters such as the X-Men and Fantastic Four, allowing for the full Marvel family to be united. Disney also now owns former Fox television networks such as FX Networks and National Geographic Partners."
The outlet went on to state, "Disney will also get Fox's 30 percent ownership of Hulu, giving Disney a controlling share of 60 percent." So what portion of Fox does Disney not own? Well, a newly formed company, Fox Corp operates as its own business entity outside of Disney's operating arms. This includes Fox News, the Fox Network, and other Fox TV stations. This arguably makes more sense for Disney from a political standpoint.
So who owns 'American Idol'?
When it comes to the ownership of TV shows there are a lot of different factors that come into play. Usually production companies own the rights to specific shows, however, networks and these companies work out deals that delineate varying degrees of ownership. American Idol may have started on Fox's network TV channel, however, it's now playing on ABC.
So one would assume that since Disney owns a big chunk of Fox and has stake in its properties, and owns 100 percent of ABC, then that should mean The Mouse officially owns all of American Idol now and the right to playing all of its episodes, correct?
Well, it's not that simple. The show was created by Simon Fuller and is based off the British TV series, Pop Idol — and it's actually produced by Fremantle North America 19 Entertainment, which "sells" the show to a network to be aired on.
American Idol judge Simon Cowell apparently had a disagreement with Simon Fuller back in the day and left Pop Idol in order to make The X Factor, but a lawsuit from Fuller claiming that parts of Cowell's popular new show ripped off of Pop Idol. They settled for Fuller to have a stake in X Factor and Cowell had agreed to appear on the U.S. offshoot, American Idol.
So while Disney can now play the episodes, the show's intellectual properties belong to Simon Fuller — meaning he's getting a taste of all the profits wherever the show is streamed or licensed to be a part of.
Cowell, at the height of American Idol's peak, was earning a salary of $33 million a season. That just gives you an idea of how profitable the show is if they're giving Cowell that much per season.
How much does it cost to produce an episode of 'American Idol'?
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the popular singing competition show costs around $2 million an episode to produce. Considering there are about 19 episodes per season, so if that's true, it's hard to imagine that talent fees are being factored into the production costs for episodes.
So how can Simon Cowell be paid $33 million, leaving the network with $5 million to produce 19 episodes? It doesn't seem like that would be the case.