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A 19 spokesman has confirmed that the company is fielding offers for a new multi-year agreement to cover releases from future American Idol stars.
WILL THEY STAY OR WILL THEY GO?
#2 Sony BMG Locked in a Duel With #1 UMG for the American Idol Music Franchise
The Times of London has confirmed the news posted Monday on this site that the deal between American Idol creator Simon Fuller’s 19 Productions and Sony BMG for the music rights has expired, and that Fuller is currently testing the free agency waters.

This morning’s story further stated that SBMG, the second-ranked member of the Big Four has some competition in its efforts to retain the franchise—said rival is, of course, first-ranked Universal Music Group. “EMI and Warner Music Group, ranked third and fourth in the world, are not thought to be in the running,” the story indicated.

The Times Nic Hopkins got his info straight from the source—an unidentified 19 employee—who told the reporter  that the company “was fielding offers for a new multi-year agreement to cover releases from future American Idol stars, along with singles and DVDs.”

The 19 spokesman also pointed out that American Idol is “the most commercially successful of all the Idol franchises developed by Mr Fuller, which include the original Pop Idol in Britain, generating “more than $40 million (£22 million) at retail level a year.”

Clive Davis and Charles Goldstuck, who have sold millions of albums and broken four artists since AI went on the air, will probably be able to hold onto the music rights, assuming BMG is willing to pony up for a deal made that much richer by UMG's presence in the bidding. Further, does SBMG chief Andy Lack's TV background give the company another leg up as the series preps for season number five on Fox, which has a six-year deal for the show?

The relationship between the U.S. version of the show and BMG has certainly been a mutually beneficial one, resulting in mega sales from Kelly Clarkson (with around 5 million units total on her two albums), Clay Aiken (nearly 4 million on two releases, including a Christmas record), Ruben Studdard (1.8 million on his debut album and 420k on his gospel collection) and Fantasia (north of 1.5 million on her bow). Is Sony BMG ready to pony up the big bucks to keep the franchise? And is there a possible label deal in the offing? Fuller, you may recall, is no music biz novice, having made a name—and a few pounds—for himself when he managed the Spice Girls.

As the action heats up, speculators speculating about whether showbiz investor Robert F.X. Sillerman, who recently acquired 19, will play a role in the decision. As analyst Bishop Cheen pointed out Thursday in an L.A. Times story about another recent Sillerman acquisition, Elvis Presley Enterprises, “He is known for adding value and taking profits.” Offering the hitmaking franchise to the highest bidder would certainly fit that M.O. But Hopkins writes that Fuller “is understood to be heavily involved in the discussions with the record companies despite having sold 19 in March to [Sillerman]… The pop guru is thought to be developing several new TV shows.”

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