Ryan Seacrest Facing Possible Pay Cut As 'Idol' Renegotiation Looms
This story first appeared in the Jan. 13, 2012 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Will season 11 be Ryan Seacrest's last on American Idol? The multihyphenate talent is entering the final stretch of a three-year contract extension that pays him $15 million a year to host the No. 1 singing competition, and sources tell THR that the negotiation to keep him will be heated.
After all, Seacrest, 37, is a man of many options these days. Five years after he joined E! Entertainment in a broadly defined role that includes a daily news show, red-carpet duties and series production (Kardashians, cable sibling Bravo's forthcoming Shahs of Sunset), his partnership with Comcast's NBCUniversal division is up for renewal. Keeping Seacrest in the NBCU family -- a high priority for the company -- could mean a rich deal that includes a spot on NBC's Today and an expanded presence. Seacrest met with NBC daytime brass in December and is set to appear occasionally in the 9 a.m. hour (Today host Matt Lauer's contract also expires this year).
At the same time, an Idol insider says Seacrest is not likely to be offered the plum $45 million pact he scored in 2009. The source says the belief at Idol, which is produced by Fox, FremantleMedia and CKx, is that the show survived the departure of judge Simon Cowell after season nine and can thrive without Seacrest if he proves too pricey. "There's no way Fremantle and CKx will continue to pay Ryan that kind of money when he can be replaced for $2 million to $3 million," the source says.
Another potential roadblock: Simon Fuller, the Idol creator who in 2005 sold his 19 Entertainment to CKx, officially ended his association with the company in 2011 and no longer holds a seat at the negotiating table. Fuller was a big Seacrest ally, and his influence was instrumental in luring Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler to the show. Seacrest, who is in the middle of a $60 million, three-year contract with radio giant Clear Channel, has shown a particular talent for balancing multiple jobs. He could conceivably handle Los Angeles-based Idol and New York-based Today, along with his radio show, which he sometimes pretapes and can record from many locations. Given the demand for his services, he is expected to play hardball with CKx, recently acquired by Apollo Global Management. "It's in Ryan's best interest to make them sweat -- the company has new people running it and has to play the game." (Seacrest and CKx declined comment.)
But Seacrest isn't the only one pushing an agenda. Says an insider: "NBC would love to get Ryan out of Idol because they have The Voice. Ryan is using it to renegotiate his deals, and NBC is looking for leverage with Lauer."