“American Idol” back to three as Abdul exits


Fan and critic complaints about the new four-judge format for season eight didn’t appear to have anything to do with Paula Abdul’s announcement that she would not be back for a ninth season of “American Idol.” Rather, it seems to be a “show me the money!” issue.

First, it was reported that Idol host Ryan Seacrest’s new deal totals $52.5 million over the next three seasons. Then the LA Times “Company Town” blog said chief judge Simon Cowell is seeking $45 million a year (up from $36 million) when his contract expires next year.

Just days ago, it was announced that Kara DioGuardi, the new judge added in season eight, would be back for the new season. There hasn’t been much speculation about the terms, but as the newest addition she is likely the lowest paid of the judges. So, with a female judge signed to join Cowell and Randy Jackson on the judging panel for season nine, Abdul appeared to have less bargaining power. The LA Times blog had reported that she had been seeking to boost her $4 million per year paycheck to $20 million, then lowered that to $12 million. The producers apparently said “no thanks.”

After weeks of speculation, Paula Abdul broke the news via her Twitter account:

“With sadness in my heart, I’ve decided not to return to IDOL. I’ll miss nurturing all the new talent, but most of all being a part of a show that I helped from day 1 become an international phenomenon. What I want to say most, is how much I appreciate the undying support and enormous love that you have showered upon me. It truly has been breathtaking, especially over the past month. I do without any doubt have the BEST fans in the entire world and I love you all.”

“Paula Abdul has been an important part of the American Idol family over the last eight seasons and we are saddened that she has decided not to return to the show. While Paula will not be continuing with us, she’s a tremendous talent and we wish her the best,” Fox, FremantleMedia North America and 19 Entertainment said in a joint statement.

RBR/TVBR observation: As we noted when DioGuardi renewed, “Plenty of fans and critics didn’t like the addition of a fourth judge.” Now it looks like the show will be back to the original format of three – two guys and a gal. There have been rumors that Paula Abdul has already been offered another reality competition judging gig. Nigel Lythgoe, who used to produce Idol, reportedly wants her to sit beside him as a judge of “So You Think You Can Dance,” which also airs on Fox.