THE FRENCHMAN WHO SOLD 'AMERICAN IDOL' TO U.S. SPONSORS

Oliver Gers Now Prepares for Canadian and Brazilian 'Idols'

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Who: Oliver Gers, senior vice president of FremantleMedia Licensing Worldwide, Americas.
Oliver Gers oversees licensing rights for shows including 'American Idol,' 'The Price Is Right' and 'Family Feud.'



Why you need to know him: Mr. Gers handles the ancillary rights for London-based FremantleMedia in the Americas and oversees shows such as American Idol, The Price Is Right and Family Feud. American Idol is the U.S. offshoot of Pop Idol produced by FremantleMedia in the U.K.

Credentials: Before joining Fremantle, Mr. Gers founded start-up Odaddy.com, a Web site that translated parenting in “guy speak,” providing the first-ever online community for fathers. That was followed by Fulcrum Group, a consultancy offering opportunity assessment, strategic repositioning and interim management services to overseas companies looking to increase their presence in North America. Among the company’s clients were BBC Worldwide Americas, Broadway Video and the French online sports venture Sport4fun. From 1995 to 2000, Mr. Gers served as vice president and strategic planning and business manager for the Internet, entertainment and novelty divisions of Golden Books Family Entertainment.

What does your division do? “FremantleMedia is the largest independent producer in the world, operating in about 40 countries, producing more than 280 shows a year. In the Americas, my division sells all ancillary rights to our shows, from sponsorship to home entertainment, from consumer products and slot machines to interactive rights, from live production to video on mobile. We are constantly trying to push the boundaries of exploitation of our properties and always looking for new partners.”

How did you persuade the initial sponsors [including Coca-Cola Co., Ford Motor Co. and AT&T Wireless] to come on board with American Idol? “We used Pop Idol as a case study to convince everybody this would be a ratings winner. I guess we were right.”

Why did you decide to cut back on the number of sponsors? “Two main reasons: [We wanted to] focus on the main sponsors and deliver maximum exposure to them, and avoid disrupting the narrative of the show with elements that did not always fit well.”

How do the sponsors measure the return on investment from their involvement? “Each sponsor has different metrics to measure their ROI, depending what their objectives are. American Idol is a unique show in that it delivers both reach and quality of demographics, allowing for many different communication campaigns around it.”

Is it true that Fremantle earns all the integration revenue, while Fox takes the ad revenue, or is the integration revenue split with Fox? “No comment.”

Who will win this series? “Your guess is as good as mine. It’s a tight race for sure.”

Tell us about other shows that you're involved in and what your role has been with those. “FremantleMedia produces The Price Is Right for CBS, Family Feud for syndication, How Clean Is Your House for Lifetime, Distraction for Comedy Central, Property Ladder for Discovery and a few others in the works. We are also enjoying the same unbelievable success in Canada with Canadian Idol [starting in two weeks] and will soon be opening Idolos in Brazil. For all these shows my team tries to come up with innovative ways to extend the reach of the show and create enjoyable experiences for our viewers and fans, and are pleased to have worked with many top tier sponsors.”

What's the next big TV craze coming from Europe? “Game shows are coming back. But I think Bit Torrent is the one we should be the most worried about.” [Bit Torrent is a new peer-to-peer Internet program that enables individual consumers to download and share digital copies of TV programs and movies without paying for them.]

How did a French TV executive end up living in New York? “The power of love. How French of me. I was working in Massachusetts when I met a New Yorker and decided to move to New York. Thirteen years and two kids later, I am still loving this city.”

What's the biggest difference between French culture and American culture? “None. We too hate Jerry Lewis.”