David Bloom is a contributor to Deadline.
American Idol executive producer Nigel Lythgoe said tonight he gets “sick to some degree of the (product) integration because (other) people have a different idea of what integration means. For me, it’s a smooth, organic process, whereas for other people, it’s, ‘Hi! This is a Coca-Cola!’ ” Speaking at a BAFTA-sponsored event at the Digital Hollywood conference, Lythgoe described a continual push and pull between show sponsors and producers that can be quite innovative but requires a lot of careful straddling of lines. “Everyone’s trying to use this as a platform,” he said. “They’re trying to stretch things all the time. I want to move those damned Coke cups. Especially when (rookie Idol judge) Nicki Minaj is sponsored by Pepsi. It gets on your nerves sometimes when it’s too obvious. You don’t want product forced on you. So we just have to be careful.”
In a long and frequently funny one-on-one with BAFTA member Phil Ashcroft, Lythgoe said he also has been exploring new distribution opportunities, including a recent lengthy but unsuccessful pitch at Microsoft’s Xbox division, where former network executive Nancy Tellem now heads the game console’s studio operations that are reaching out to content creators. “I went there with a specific idea for selling a format that could go all over the world immediately,” said Lythgoe, who would only describe the format as a “family entertainment show.” Xbox ultimately passed on the project, but in the process Lythgoe “really got the idea that these are no longer televisions. They’re windows to so much more these days. I think it’s thrilling. I’m enthused about that.”
Lythgoe also called Shine America, the Elizabeth Murdoch-owned company that bought 50% of Lythgoe’s operation, “a very, very exciting company.” “They’ve been a great support for me,” he said. “I look forward to spending more time with them. And getting away from Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey.” He quickly added, “I love them both.” When Ashcroft asked if he loved the feuding Idol judges together, he said, “No, I love them individually.” In talking with “a number of channels” about new projects, Lythgoe said that creating new formats is “very difficult to develop and if you’ve got one, you squeeze it dry, as I’m finding out. You really have to think globally and how our content can be taken and molded for these other countries. Mixed with the digital age we’re in, the world is your oyster.”