Idols (also known as SuperStar in some countries) is a reality television singing competition format created by British television producer Simon Fuller and developed by Fremantle. The format began in 2001 with the British television series Pop Idol; its first adaptation was the Polish series Idol in 2002. It has since become the world's most widely watched television franchise, as well as one of the most successful entertainment formats, adapted in over 46 regions around the world, with its various versions broadcast to 150 countries. An estimated worldwide audience between 3.2billion and 6.5billion viewers have watched variants of the show, and the franchise has generated more than $2.5 billion in revenue.
Each season, the series aims to find the most outstanding unsigned solo recording artist (or "idol") in a region. Originally aimed for pop singers, the series have since evolved to accept singers from different genres of music, such as rock, R&B, and country. Through a series of mass auditions, a group of finalists are selected by a panel of judges (which usually consists of artists and record producers) who offer critiques on their performances. The finalists then advance to the weekly live shows. On each live show, the contestants all sing, the television audience votes (by telephone or SMS), and then the contestant who receives the fewest votes gets eliminated. The final episode is the grand finale episode, when usually two, but sometimes three or four, finalists are left, and the contestant who gets the largest number of votes is declared the winner. The winner receives a recording contract, monetary prizes, and a title as their nation's "Idol", "SuperStar" or "Star". Sometimes one or more of the runners-up get recording contracts as well.
In 2001, British talent manager and television producer Simon Fuller created the British television series Pop Idol. The series was developed by production company Fremantle and was broadcast on ITV on 6 October 2001. Fuller, along with television producer Nigel Lythgoe, was inspired to create the series by the New Zealand television series Popstars, which was adapted in the United Kingdom as Popstars in January 2001. The first series of Pop Idol proved to be more popular than Popstars, in part due to the chemistry of the judges and the success of its first winner Will Young.
Pop Idol's success led to an interest for adaptations in other countries. Before selling the format, Fuller reached out for an out-of-court settlement with Popstars creator Jonathan Dowling, in which international versions of Idols will be prohibited to use the prefix Pop in their local titles. As such, Poland, the first country to adapt the format, named their version as simply Idol. Idol was launched in 2002, months after the first series of Pop Idol ended.
Fuller, Lythgoe, and Pop Idol judge Simon Cowell attempted to sell the format in the United States in 2001, but the idea was met with poor response from major networks. Elisabeth Murdoch, daughter of News Corporation chairman Rupert Murdoch, persuaded her father to buy the rights for an American adaptation. The series, American Idol: The Search for a Superstar, debuted on the Fox network on 11 June 2002. American Idol also featured Cowell as its judge, who also proved to be popular among the American audiences. American Idol quickly rose to the top of the U.S. TV ratings, due to the popularity of the judges (particularly Cowell) and its contestants, which were led by its first winner, Kelly Clarkson.
The success brought by American Idol led to even more adaptations in other countries, where the Dutch Idols became the top television series in the Netherlands during its airing.