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.”
Tyler’s deal also was reportedly finished in August, weeks before Fox recently announced that Kara DioGuardi won’t be returning for a third season on the show. While never in doubt, original Idol judge Randy Jackson actually went down to the wire in finalizing some elements on his deal. Lopez has a lot of TV background, having started on In Living Color, while Tyler has virtually none. Meanwhile, Iovine would bring to the table some record executive experience that is lacking now that Simon Cowell has left. Additionally, as part of Idol‘s recent pact with Universal Music Group, Interscope Geffen A&M where Iovine serves as chairman will distribute the albums of the Idol finalists. 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).
In the judge unveiling ceremony, Fox made light of the media frenzy surrounding the search for new Idol judges with several video packages featuring a slew of news headlines. “This was under the radar, the best-kept secret,” Seacrest quipped when Lopez joined him onstage. What will she be looking for? “I’m looking for the next Michael Jackson.” And Tyler added, “I wanna bring some rock to this roller-coaster.” He also delighted fans by showing off some of his famous falsetto. Jackson, who was introduced first, was the most pumped-up. “I’m calling Season 10 the remix,” he said. “I think we are going to find the best American Idol ever.”
Fox brass certainly hope that’s true. After peaking in Season 6 in 2007 when the premiere drew massive 37.3 million viewers and 15.7/36 in adults 18-49, Idol has been on a ratings decline. This year’ finale averaged 24.2 million viewers and a 8.2 rating in 18-49, hitting an all-time demo low for a closer for a second consecutive year.
Today’s announcement is the culmination of events that kicked off in the spring of 2009 when former judge Simon Cowell started dropping hints that he would be leaving his American Idol gig that paid him some $36 million a year. Then in August of 2009, Paula Abdul became the first judge to leave American Idol after she couldn’t reach a salary agreement with the network. She was replaced by talk show host DeGeneres, the first Idol judge with no musical background, who signed a two-year deal for the reality series. On her very first day on the job in January this year, Cowell announced that he would be leaving Idol at the end of the season to launch an American version of his British reality series The X-Factor on Fox in Fall 2011. That was also the day when friction between DeGeneres and Cowell developed. The lack of chemistry between the two contributed to DeGeneres’ out-of-place feel on the show and ultimately to her decision to exit.