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The world's a stage for 'Idol'

Martha Brass is hoping that all the nasty, catty comments will be about the contestants on “World Idol” this week and not about her handling of this groundbreaking television spectacular.The much-hyped “World Idol” broadcast event -- the first part of which goes out Dec. 25 in most territories internationally -- is easily the most complex and difficult assignment that Brass, acting chief o
/ Source: Hollywood Reporter

Martha Brass is hoping that all the nasty, catty comments will be about the contestants on “World Idol” this week and not about her handling of this groundbreaking television spectacular.

The much-hyped “World Idol” broadcast event -- the first part of which goes out Dec. 25 in most territories internationally -- is easily the most complex and difficult assignment that Brass, acting chief operating officer of production for the show’s producer FremantleMedia North America, has ever undertaken.

“I have never done anything like this, and I’m not sure that we are aware of anybody doing anything as complicated as this. One example might be the Eurovision Song Contest, but that does not involve a public (phone-in) vote,” Brass said during the run-up to the shoot in London last week.

The two-part special will pit “Idol” winners from 11 countries against each other for the World Idol title. The first part of the “event” was filmed in London last week and will be broadcast by participating countries this week. Audiences in each country vote to decide the overall winner. The second part airs in most territories Jan. 1, when the World Idol will be named. That may sound simple enough, but Brass is quick to point out that it is in fact a logistical nightmare.

Says Brass: “Probably the biggest challenge is the coordination effort that is largely orchestrated by our team in London. Just a few considerations would be music rights clearances, for example, clip segments, flights, hotels -- it’s a big production multiplied by 11.

“Participating countries will bring their own hosts to London, and they will be taped after the show doing the downlinks and hosting for their own territories. They will take it all back to their own countries and produce their own shows to fit their own needs,” Brass says. A representative from each country’s judging panel will also be flown in to sit on the international jury.

Brass is overseeing production of the master footage, including location segments filmed in and around London. Earlier this month, 11 international production teams created individual shows from the London feed for the first broadcast. Each show features the participating nation’s own hosts, native language, unique show length, broadcast format (PAL, NTSC, etc.) -- even commercial-break duration. When the initial competition is through, FremantleMedia executives will oversee the accumulation and counting of votes from all 11 markets.

“Each country will take the elements and put them together for the show that is appropriate for their countries. Most countries are going out with their shows on Dec. 25, but some will be plus or minus a couple of days. The challenge will be to keep the identity of the overall winner a secret,” Brass says.

But she adds: “In each country the production team will know that country’s results, so only a very limited number of people will know the overall result. The only thing that could possibly leak is the winner in an individual country’s broadcast.”

The monster production is definitely not something Brass sees as becoming the norm for FremantleMedia. “Obviously, this is an experiment for us, and we expect to learn quite a bit from it. Certainly, the trend we have seen is that broadcasters and viewers like major-event programming, and some of my colleagues have likened this to the Olympics of entertainment TV. But this is not something that you could do on a regular basis because it is cost prohibitive and a major undertaking for the staff. It’s truly an ’event,’ and if you do it too frequently then it ceases to be an event, doesn’t it?”

Reuters/VNU