'American Idol': Lionel Richie, Luke Bryan, Charlie Puth in the Mix for Judges' Panel

Formal negotiations have not begun as ABC and producers Fremantle and Core Media start to narrow the field.
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From left: Charlie Puth, Lionel Richie, Luke Bryan

ABC's American Idol judging panel is beginning to come into focus.

With Katy Perry already set, sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that ABC and producers FremantleMedia and Core Media are narrowing the field to Lionel Richie, Luke Bryan and Charlie Puth to join Perry on the judges' panel. ABC, Fremantle and Core all declined comment.

Sources note that while all three names are rumored to be in the mix, negotiations have yet to begin with anyone. Richie is considered to be likely as he remains an internal favorite among all three parties; Bryan would make sense given ABC's relationship with country music (the Disney-owned network is the home to the Country Music Awards, among others); and singer Puth is seen as less likely of the trio.

The remaining judges' slots need to fill up fast. Auditions are scheduled to start Aug. 17, in Florida, and thus far only Perry is on board. It was just one week ago that American Idol finally locked down Ryan Seacrest to return as host, a negotiation that stretched to nearly three months despite the fact that it was considered a foregone conclusion.

The judges that will fill the remaining vacancies aren't expected to have nearly the star wattage of Perry, who took a significant chunk of the budget with her reported $25 million contract. ABC and Fremantle are said to have talked about ways to prevent the show from suffering the price problem it had toward the end of its original Fox run, when skyrocketing talent salaries caused the show to lose money.  

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