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'Idol' Judge Search Could Delay Show Production

Producers consider Harry Connick Jr. for the slot left open by Dr. Luke after the veteran producer offered Sony Music half his $12 million fee in an unsuccessful plea to let him take a judge's chair, sources tell The Hollywood Reporter.

Harry Connick Jr. Jennifer Lopez Keith Urban - H 2013
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From left: Harry Connick Jr., Jennifer Lopez and Keith Urban

The collapse of songwriter and producer Dr. Luke’s deal to judge American Idol was a tough setback for Fox, Fremantle and the show's producers that has left little time to fill a judge’s slot before the show begins taping, which originally was set for next Tuesday but could be delayed.

At this point, it appears that Harry Connick Jr. is likely to join the panel, though sources say Fox had hoped to add an industry professional to the mix rather than another celebrity. While Fox was said to be somewhat cool to the Connick idea, sources say there is reluctance to add another woman to the mix given friction last season between Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj, which didn’t play well with the show’s key older female demographic. Fox declined to comment on any aspect of Idol business.

Keith Urban and Jennifer Lopez reportedly have committed to judging this Idol season.

EXCLUSIVE: Dr. Luke Will Not Judge 'American Idol'

Luke's deal unraveled Friday, Aug. 23. Initially, Luke’s camp said he had come to a realization that Idol would demand too much of his time given his commitment to his label at Sony Music. (Luke’s Kemosabe imprint is home to songwriter-turned-solo artist Bonnie McKee, rapper Juicy J and pop-urban act Becky G.)

But sources say Luke, whose real name is Lukasz Gottwald, remained so interested in becoming an Idol judge that he continued to plead this week with Sony Music CEO Doug Morris to allow him to appear on the show. An insider says Luke offered Sony Music half his Idol fee, said to be about $12 million -- close to the $15 million Lopez is set to receive (and more than Urban earns).  For Luke, the sacrifice would not be great as he is said to earn more than $30 million a year from his music business.

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But Morris did not relent, because Sony's competitor, Universal Music Group, holds the exclusive rights to American Idol recordings, and he did not want Luke, in effect, to help his bitter rival. A source says Morris, having allowed Luke to produce Katy Perry’s latest album for Universal, was unwilling to yield on this.

Meanwhile, sources say Fox and Idol producers are upset with CAA -- which collects millions in packaging fees on Idol -- for assuring them that Luke’s contract would allow him to take the job. When Fox attorneys examined the deal with Sony Music, they found that Luke was not free after all. CAA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.