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Reinventing ‘Idol’: Will The Reality Veteran Finish Up In The Ratings Without Simon?

Nellie Andreeva

On Thursday night, the American Idol episode that determined the show’s 13 finalists drew 25.3 million viewers and a 8.2/24 in adults 18-49, up a whopping 30% from the comparable night last year. After starting off down double digits from last season, the last one with star judge Simon Cowell, the singing competition has been consistently chipping away at last season’s ratings advantage, keeping its declines in the single digits and even slightly outperforming the corresponding 2010 episodes on a couple of occasions. “We have to pinch ourselves sometimes, I don’t think anybody expected it to go as well as it has,” Fox’s EVP program planning and research Preston Beckman said.

Indeed, the doomsday scenarios about Idol crashing and burning in the ratings without Simon did not materialize. Right now, Idol’s current tenth season is about even with Season 9 in total viewers and down moderate 7% in adults 18-49. After taking a dive in the ratings at the end of last season to the levels of its maiden summer cycle in 2002, could the veteran reality series reverse its down trend this year with a first season-to-season ratings bump since its ratings peaked in Season 5? “We feel that from this point forward we are tracking on par with where Idol was last year and maybe we could surprise ourselves and start to grow with the live shows,” Beckman said. Why is he so upbeat … Read More »

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Simon Cowell On New ‘Idol’ Judges: “I Think They’ve Done A Good Job’

Nellie Andreeva

The always suave Simon Cowell made a rare misstep during a conference call today about his new Fox reality series The X Factor. When he was asked what he thought about new American Idol judges Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez, he professed that he hadn’t seen a full episode of Idol yet this season, just a three-minute recap last week. He did make a quick recovery. “From what I’ve seen and from what I’ve heard, it all seems to be going well, I always thought that would be the case,” he said. “What I was more concerned about was the ratings falling off a cliff, meaning that that the whole genre is now over. But people are still excited about these shows, whether Dancing With the Stars, which has gotten better over the years, or America’s Got Talent.” He ultimately returned to the original question about Tyler and JLo, saying “I think they’ve done a good job.”

There was a lot of talk about who will join Cowell on the judging panel of The X Factor this fall. “We haven’t made up our minds up yet”, Cowell said, adding that he expects to make the announcement in 3-4 weeks. He didn’t comment on the persistent rumor that the pretty 27-year-old British singer Cheryl Cole, a judge on the U.K. version of The X Factor, will also be on the Fox show, but said that he is looking for judges whom “the … Read More »

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RATINGS RAT RACE: ‘Idol’ Down But Still Dominates; ‘Live To Dance’, ‘Chase’ Crushed

Nellie Andreeva

A lot is riding on American Idol at Fox, which usually turns from also-ran to a ratings leader overnight when the reality juggernaut hits the air. The pressure is not as great this season and the network has the Super Bowl. But the scrutiny has never been greater because of the judge overhaul in the wake of original star Simon Cowell’s departure that played out in the blogosphere over the summer. Overall, new judge Steven Tyler is getting good grades for his debut as is new (old) showrunner Nigel Lythgoe for focusing more on the good singers and less on the sideshows. As for the ratings, the question was “How much down will the show return without Simon?” We just got that answered. In the fast nationals, the two-hour American Idol Season 10 premiere drew 26.1 million viewers and a 9.7 rating/26 share among adults 18-49. That was down 13% in viewers and 18% in the 18-49 demo from last year’s premiere and the reality veteran’s lowest-rated season opener since the show’s inauspicious debut in summer 2002. (historical data below) It also represents the show’s biggest ratings drop between seasons. The numbers are expected to get adjusted up in the finals, so the demo decline is projected to be 16%. (The decline is bigger in the demo than in the total viewership because the Idol audience skewed older this year. Hey, one of the judges, Steven Tyler, is 62.) Even … Read More »

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How Was ‘American Idol’ Without Simon?

Nellie Andreeva

For the past year, since Simon Cowell announced last January that he would leave American Idol to focus on bringing The X Factor to the U.S., there has been relentless speculation whether the veteran reality show would survive without its signature star. As Idol launched its 10th season tonight with new judges Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler and new Wednesday-Thursday airing pattern, we’re finally starting to get answers. Here is an excerpt from TVLine’s Idol expert Michael Slezak’s first take on the premiere. (Check TVLine in the morning for his recap):  

“Admittedly, night one of Idol 10.0 wasn’t its most thrilling installment of all-time ever, but the show’s increased emphasis on truly talented singers — and its decision not to belabor audition packages from the talentless, the deluded, and the attention-craving — made for a zippy, feel-good 120 minutes. And while the season premiere lacked Simon Cowell’s addictively salty bitchery, it benefited greatly from Steven Tyler’s stream-of-righteous critiques. Yeah, sometimes it takes a beat to translate the hoots and howls and adjectives emanating from the Aerosmith frontman’s giant mouth, but he’s already exhibiting solid instincts when faced with young, unpolished talent. His “I wasn’t feelin’ the pizazz” feedback to big-voiced-but-soulless 15-year-old Kenize Palmer was spot on, even if he eventually caved and said “yes” to giving her a Golden Ticket.”

And here is what American Idol creator/executive … Read More »

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Mike Darnell Explains ‘Idol’ Format Changes

Nellie Andreeva

UPDATE: At a press conference following the brief Idol judge unveiling ceremony, Fox’s president of alternative programming Mike Darnell dismissed speculation that negotiations with new judge Jennifer Lopez took so long because of special demands by the singer/actress. “There were no diva demands,” he said. “These were easy, comfortable deals.” However, unlike the pact for new judge Steve Tyler, Lopez’s deal for Idol does include a first-look film and TV deal at Fox for her production company. However, later, a top Fox executive confirmed Nikki’s reporting that Team Lopez did indeed make big demands. “But they’re supposed to,” the exec chortled.

Idol producers shed some light on the the upcoming season, which feels like a reboot with the 2 new judges, plus new in-house mentor Interscope’s Jimmy Iovine, newly returning executive producer Nigel Lythgoe, and new music partner Universal. The producers went out of their way to stress that there will be no judge taking over the villain role played on the show by Simon Cowell for the first 9 seasons. “It’s not about role playing, it’s about [judges] playing themselves,” Lythgoe said. But later a Fox exec explained that Iovine, a music industry veteran, would fit the bill by giving the young singers a dose of brutal honesty when he advised them and assessed their performances in offstage sessions that will be shown during the broadcast. Iovine’s role, therefore, will be crucial to the show’s dynamic. When asked how Idol will deal with not having Cowell, Lythgoe responded: “You obviously haven’t met Jimmy.”

Sources told Nikki as far back as January that Idol was looking at the 56-year-old Iovine, the inspiration for Eminem’s song “Jimmy Crack Corn” (which also features 50 Cent). The deal was sealed when Idol’s 19 Entertainment entered into a multiyear agreement with Universal Music Group to have Interscope Geffen A&M market, promote, and distribute albums globally from American Idol’s finalists and winning contestants across a broad array of retail and new media platforms. Iovine has been chairman of Interscope-Geffen-A&M since 2001. He was born in Brooklyn-born and began as a recording engineer in the mid-1970s working with John Lennon and Bruce Springsteen. He went on to produce albums for U2, Tom Petty Read More »

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IT’S OFFICIAL: Fox Announces Steven Tyler & Jennifer Lopez As New ‘Idol’ Judges

Nellie Andreeva

 Talk about an anticlimax. After weeks of speculation and spoilers, Fox officially intro’ed new American Idol judges Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez this morning in a brief ceremony hosted by Ryan Seacrest at the Forum in Inglewood. The two are joining original judge Randy Jackson. Additionally, record executive and producer Jimmy Iovine will serve as an in-house mentor to the contestants on the upcoming 10th season of Idol. Technically, Lopez replaces Ellen DeGeneres who asked to be released from her 2-year contract after the end of last season. Her wish was granted in early August. Lopez’s Idol judge gig is part of a $12-million salary and overal Fox deal which Lopez and her team negotiated over the summer as Nikki reported exclusively earlier this month as well as first scooped that Lopez was to be an Idol judge. Today, Fox confirmed the first-look deal for her Nuyorican Prods. with both Twentieth Century Fox Films and Fox Broadcasting Co.

“Jennifer is a true entertainment powerhouse who has made a tremendous impact on pop culture,” said Jim Gianopulos and Tom Rothman, chairmen and CEOs of Fox Filmed Entertainment. Added Fox entertainment chairman Peter Rice, “From the worlds of dance and music to television, films and fashion, she is a global superstar with iconic and captivating style, along with impressive insight on how to reach and move audiences worldwide.” Read More »

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Fox To Announce ‘Idol’ Judges Wednesday

Nellie Andreeva

American Idol host Ryan Seacrest will unveil the new panel of judges for the Fox reality show on Wednesday, September 22nd, at the Forum, the network said. With so much speculation about Idol‘s judges all summer, there is not much suspense left for what is expected to be an official introduction of singers Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler and veteran Randy Jackson. Unless there’s the addition of Elton John.

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JLo Getting Overall Fox Deal Along With $12M ‘American Idol’ Judging Job — But Her Most Diva Demands Were Refused

EXCLUSIVE: I’ve learned that Jennifer Lopez had been negotiating for a guaranteed “go” motion picture and TV pilots at Fox to accompany an asked-for $15 million American Idol judging paycheck. But the powers-that-be who produce Idol – Fox, Fremantle, and 19 Entertainment — balked. It was her manager Benny Medina (whom she once fired) who first orchestrated the meeting with the Idol producers in June, and, by the end of July, J-Lo accepted the offer to be a new Idol judge. Since then, she, Medina and her producing partner Simon Fields have been trying to milk the gig for all they could get from the movie studio and broadcast network/television programmer to further her stalled career in the film/TV area. One bargaining chip they had, I can report, is that Simon Cowell already asked JLo to be a judge on the U.S. version of his The X Factor when it debuts on Fox in Fall 2011.

Among JLo’s demands, “she was angling for an overall deal at Fox, including a put picture, to keep the movie career going. But Fox said no,” one insider tells me. “In the old days, these were called a ‘vanity deal’ for good reason. They simply don’t exist today. Will Smith doesn’t have put pictures.” Another informant says she also was angling for TV development projects to replace the ones that had gone by the wayside when her career grew cold. Also, Team JLo was pissed that … Read More »

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Fox Confirms Kara DioGuardi Exits ‘Idol’

Nellie Andreeva

Fox just issued a statement confirming that Kara DioGuardi won’t be returning to American Idol next season. News comes as Jennifer Lopez is finalizing a deal to join the Fox series and amid speculation that Idol might be reverting to the original three-judge format. Also closing in on a deal for the reality series is Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler. And executive producer Nigel Lythgoe said last weekend he’s still trying to land Elton John. So Randy Jackson will be the only returning panelist  after Simon Cowell, Ellen DeGeneres, and now DioGuardi have gone. Read More »

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‘Idol’ Still Trying To Get Elton John As Judge

Ray Richmond is contributing to Deadline’s Emmy coverage.

EXCLUSIVE: Is American Idol executive producer Nigel Lythgoe unhappy with who’s going to be the show’s next two judges? It sure sounds that way. I caught up with him at the 8th annual BAFTA/LA Tea Party in Century City today and asked him to confirm that Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez will replace Simon Cowell and Ellen DeGeneres. “I must say, I really do love Elton John. He’s a huge favorite of mine,” Lythgoe replied to me. The producer added that Elton’s packed schedule is “always the problem”. Then Lythgoe revealed what strategy Idol is using on Elton to convince him to clear it and come on the show. “It depends on whether [he] wants to give back.” As Deadline Hollywood has been continually reporting, everybody connected to Idol has made no secret of the fact that Elton John has always been their first choice to replace Cowell. But no deal is in the offing not just because of the musician’s touring commitments but also because of his astronomical asking price. Which is why the musician’s UK publicist Gary Farrow told Deadline London Editor Tim Adler in late July that “There’s more chance of me fucking you than Elton being on U.S. Idol.” But it’s clear Lythgoe is still trying.

Lythgoe, who left Idol and then recently returned, also blamed Simon Cowell for Ellen DeGeneres not returning as an Idol judge next season. “I’m sorry she’s gone, to be honest with you,” he told me, “because I think there’s a place for Ellen DeGeneres on American Idol. And that is being the voice of the people. She wasn’t given a fair opportunity to serve that function. Read More »

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‘American Idol’ Deal Done For Steven Tyler

I’ve just confirmed from sources close to the singer that the “deal is done” for Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler to be one of the new judges despite having very little TV experience. He has played himself on a few tube episodes (Two And A Half Men and Lizzie McGuire) and been a presenter on countless music awards shows. So there’s no indication what kind of judge he would make. But music industry types I’ve spoken with stress that performers like Tyler often have a hard time openly criticizing other performers, especially up-and-comers. They find it hard to imagine he’ll fill the Simon Cowell “cruel to be kind” role on the show. As things stand now, Tyler will be  joining Jennifer Lopez on American Idol next season. Nigel Lythgoe a few days ago denied unconfirmed reports circulating that J-Lo may lose the job because of diva demands after she was offered the gig and accepted it. Fox et al would have to be idiots not to realize that asking J-Lo onto the show would mean inviting an entourage in tow. Meanwhile, Michael Ferrel, the new CEO of the American Idol producer CKX, said Fox expects to announce the replacement judges shortly after Labor Day on September 6th. Meanwhile, CKX still has no new deal for the 10th season of the show and negotiations between its 19 Entertainment with Fox and Fremantle are continuing. It expects Fox to renew its American Idol deal by the end of Q4 or early 2011 at … Read More »

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Geffen Coulda (Shoulda) Been ‘Idol’ Judge

EXCLUSIVE: Fox, Fremantle, and 19 Entertainment are locking in their American Idol judges with each passing day. But I’ve learned that the show really wanted but didn’t snag the best judge possible — David Geffen. My sources say that, about 4 months ago, Idol producer Simon Fuller of 19 Entertainment first approached the one time founder of both Asylum Records (Jackson Browne, The Eagles, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, Linda Ronstadt) and Geffen Records (Donna Summer, John Lennon, Elton John, Cher,  Aerosmith, Peter Gabriel, Guns N’ Roses, Lifehouse, Nirvana) and former principal of DreamWorks SKG. The two men met twice, and Fuller tried his best to talk Geffen into taking the judging gig left vacant by Simon Cowell. I hear the multibillionaire who rarely gives interviews or appears on television asked Fuller perplexed: “Why should I do this?”

As soon as Cowell announced his departure from Idol to bring his own music show The X Factor to Fox, the network and 19 and Fremantle sought a new judge who was a music mogul, like Tommy Mottola, Guy Oseary, and Jimmy Iovine. But Geffen would have trumped them all. “It would have been his if he’d wanted it,” a source tells me. “Because Cowell is a bad imitation of David.” I couldn’t agree more: Geffen would have been a natural: he’s often brutally honest, he is a legendary talent spotter, and he’s forgotten more about the music biz than Cowell will ever know in a lifetime. … Read More »

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TCA: Fox Addresses ‘American Idol’ Rumors & More From The Network’s Exec Session

Nellie Andreeva

Anticipating an avalanche of American Idol-related questions, Fox Broadcasting’s entertainment chairman Peter Rice made an opening statement at the top of the network’s executive session. “The only thing I an tell you with absolute certainty is there are no signed deals with anyone on either side of the camera who wasn’t on the show last year,” he said, referring to judges as well as returning executive producer Nigel Lythgoe. Rice did confirm that Ellen DeGeneres met with him at the beginning of June. ”We talked about the season and her feelings about the season, the idea that she wasn’t comfortable and that it was not a good fit for her,” he said. “I tried to persuade her that it would be different in the future, but we ultimately came to an agreement. We were going to begin looking for new judges anyway, because Simon was leaving, so as that was going to play out over the summer, we came to an agreement to go to her and say: we can’t replace you, or we can move on without you.  [DeGeneres is in the middle of a 2-year deal with Idol.] That’s where we got to last week. We felt confident that we could come up with a panel that didn’t include Ellen as a judge, and  at the same time we knew we were coming here on Monday. We felt it was disingenuous to sit here and talk about Ellen being … Read More »

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TCA: No ‘Idol’ Judge News On Monday

Nellie Andreeva

Despite speculation about the new judges on American Idol reaching fever pitch, word is that Fox will not make any announcements at its TCA presentation Monday as previously anticipated. On the other hand, new ABC Entertainment Group president Paul Lee, who had been a question mark for ABC’s TCA session on Sunday, is now confirmed after his appointment was officially announced today.

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JENNIFER LOPEZ IS NEW ‘IDOL’ JUDGE! Closed Deal This Week; Replaces Ellen Who Wanted Out of Contract: “It’s Not Been Fun”

EXCLUSIVE UPDATE 6:30 PM: We’ve just learned the backstory of how Ellen DeGeneres bowed out of American Idol and who will be the new judge taking her place. It’s Jennifer Lopez, JENNIFER LOPEZ 2whose singing and acting career has been on the skids after her recent movie failed at the box office in the spring and she was dropped by her record company Sony Music Epic Records this past winter. We hear her manager Benny Medina (whom she once fired) orchestrated the meeting with the American Idol producers a month ago, and negotiations have been ongoing ever since. We’ve learned a deal was closed earlier this week under the utmost secrecy. Today’s news came shortly after Nigel Lythgoe returned to Idol as an executive producer. He has vowed to shake up the show’s team of judges in the wake of the departure of Simon Cowell, publicly stating that he always thought a panel of three and not 4 made the most sense.

Still to be decided is who will replace Simon Cowell. Everyone associated with the show wants Elton John, but we hear he’s asking for too much money and has too many touring commitments he can’t get out of. (Denials That Justin Or Elton Judging ‘Idol’) 2ND UPDATE: Tonight, unconfirmed reports say Idol has offered Cowell’s judge seat to Steven Tyler. 3RD UPDATE: And another unconfirmed report claimed judge Kara DioGuardi has been fired to bring the panel count down to just 3, not 4.

As for Ellen Degeneres, we’re told she wanted off the show two months ago and complained that Idol producers “couldn’t control Cowell”, one insider tells us. Least of all Cecile Frot-Coutaz, the CEO of FremantleMedia North America. “Cecile is doing X Factor with Simon, so she’s in his back pocket.” DeGeneres and her reps went in to to see Fox Broadcasting’s Entertainment Chairman Peter Rice and Alternative TV President Mike Darnell and asked to be let out of the year left on her contract. “She’s not comfortable. She’s not happy. It’s not been fun,” Fox was told.  But Rice and Darnell responded that, with Cowell leaving, “We can’t let you out now because it would be bad for our franchise. Give us a chance to figure out who we could get.” In the end, all the show’s producers – Fox, Fremantle, and 19 Entertainment – worked it out. “Peter Rice was awesome,” an insider tells us. “Ellen is thrilled and relieved.” We’ve learned that serious conversations took place between Idol and Jessica Simpson to replace Ellen. But once Jennifer Lopez was locked in this week, the DeGeneres announcement went out. Read More »

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Denials That Justin Or Elton Judging ‘Idol’

2ND UPDATE: Deadline has learned that representatives for both Justin Timberlake and Elton John are denying there’s anything real behind that published rumor that both musicians are in talks to replace Simon Cowell as a permanent judge on American Idol. A Justin insider says the report is “just silly” because Timberlake has no time for a gig like this. That’s because his film career is really taking off after acting turns in David Fincher’s Oscar-touted The Social Network as well as Bad Teacher and Friends with Benefits. And he’s been offered the lead in the Andrew Niccols-directed I’m Mortal for New Regency and Fox. Elton John’s name surfaced the moment Cowell announced his exit and there have been talks since then. Plus, he’s got the album “Union” with Leon Russell. The singer’s UK publicist Gary Farrow told me that “Elton’s got commitments right up until next year. As we stand at the moment, Elton has no plans to do that show.” Which is why he gave Deadline London editor Tim Adler this blunt quote: “It’s absolute rubbish. This story’s three months old. There’s more chance of me fucking you than Elton being on U.S. Idol.”

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Nigel Lythgoe Returns to ‘Idol’ As EP

Nellie Andreeva

He was the first major member of the American idol team to depart the show. Now former executive producer Nigel Lythgoe is finalizing a deal to return for the upcoming 10th season as the top-rated reality series is looking to shake off a lackluster Season 9 and to prepare for its first season without Simon Cowell on the judging panel. Lythgoe is expected to serve as an executive producer alongside Ken Warwick, who has been running Idol for the past 2 years, creator Simon Fuller and Cecile Frot-Coutaz. Lythgoe’s surprise exit from the show in the summer of 2008 was followed by the departure of Paula Abdul last summer over a salary dispute and the recent exit of Cowell, who will be launching X Factor on Fox in fall 2011.

Lythgoe, who helped build Idol into a reality powerhouse, has stayed in the Idol family with a deal at 19 Entertainment, which co-produces Idol with FremantleMedia. He also serves as executive producer/judge on 19′s Fox series So You Think You Can Dance. Because of his long-time Idol experience and his Cowell-like role on SYTYCD as an acerbic British judge, there has been some speculation that CAA-repped Lythgoe would be considered for Cowell’s spot but I hear his deal is for his EP services only. As for the high-profile search for Cowell’s replacement, it is still going on, and the network may not be able to lock in the new judge by … Read More »

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