10:51am PT by Shirley Halperin, Georg Szalai
Will.i.am to Return to 'The Voice' U.K. (Exclusive)
American Idol is out, The Voice is in for hitmaker will.i.am.
The Hollywood Reporter has learned that the Black Eyed Peas frontman-turned-solo-star will return to the U.K. version of The Voice as a coach for the third season of the BBC One show. He'll join Tom Jones, who's also expected to come back. Pop star Jessie J and The Script frontman Danny O'Donoghue announced their departures from the show in July.
A third seat on the show looks like it will go to Australian pop star Kylie Minogue, according to an insider, although she has yet to officially sign on.
Will.i.am had also been in talks with Fox's Idol to fill the third seat on its season 13 panel, which is still coming together. Jennifer Lopez has not officially been named as a returning judge, but the singer's boyfriend Caspar Smart seemed to have spilled the beans on Friday.
Will.i.am had even demonstrated his rapport with J Lo -- "They were really funny together," says a source -- but negotiations with Idol never quite got off the ground. After many weeks of rumors, and with an offer on the table from Voice U.K. production company Wall to Wall, which produces the show based on the global singing competition format from Talpa, will.i.am decided to heed London's calling.
The British show's audience share has been seesawing. The first season of The Voice U.K. was BBC One’s highest-rated new entertainment series on record, with a consolidated series average of 9.2 million viewers. Including results shows, it drew an average of 8.9 million viewers. The second season saw viewership dip to just below 7.5 million people on average.
However, the second-season finale averaged 7.95 million viewers, slightly up from the debut season, even though the peak audience dropped. While the first season had beaten Simon Cowell's Britain's Got Talent for several weeks in a row, the second season drew consistently lower audience figures than its ITV competitor.
As a solo artist, will.i.am, like X Factor judge Nicole Scherzinger, also has been embraced by the British public. His latest album #willpower, featuring such guests as Britney Spears, Afrojack, Juicy J, Chris Brown and Miley Cyrus, among others, reached No. 3 on England's OCC (Official Charts Company).