Fox Entertainment president Kevin Reilly opened his executive session at the Television Critics Association summer press tour with some news: Mariah Carey will be on the American Idol judges panel next season.
“We do in fact have one judge whose deal closed very, very recently,” said Reilly. “I think it’s the biggest recording artist that any of these shows have ever had. It’s an artist that many contestenats have tried to emulate, have tried to sing [her] songs, have tried to hit the notes. Because [the deal] really only concluded hours ago, our new judge couldn’t be with us.”
Reilly phoned Carey from his seat on the dais at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.
“I am so excited to be joining Idol,” said Carey. “I wish I could be there today. I can’t wait too get started. “
Reilly also confirmed that Jennifer Lopez is indeed exiting.
“I think I can confirm that it’s 100 percent that Jennifer will not be back with the show,” he said, adding that the process of letting Tyler and Lopez go was “transparent” and “mutual.”
“We had a great experience with both of them; creatively we were all happy. But we decided it was time for a change.”
The network is likely to settle on more cast additions in the next couple weeks. “It’s just a matter of picking the right one [and finding the] right chemistry.”
Reilly would not comment on whether Randy Jackson will return. He emphasized Jackson’s close working relationship with Carey, whom Jackson co-manages. He also noted that Jackson (who has been on the judging panel since season one) was instrumental in Carey’s deal.
And Reilly admitted that Idol‘s double-digit ratings declines last season — the show’s 11th — and the glut of singing competition shows — including the network’s X Factor and NBC’s The Voice — have spurred the Idol‘s revamp.
“Although the show is as vital as ever, our ratings were down,” conceded Reilly. “Not being the only game in town now, we needed to keep things fresh.”
Reilly also added that Simon Cowell is close to settling on a host for X Factor. Cowell earlier this year fired Steve Jones as well as judges Paula Abdul and Nicole Sherzinger, who will be replaced by Britney Spears and Demi Lovato.
Following the session, Reilly told reporters that Carey wasn’t necessarily a “replacement” for Lopez. “It was never the goal to replace her [Jennifer Lopez]. I think they’re very different personalities. Once Jennifer declared that she in fact was comfortable moving on, we made the decision: You can call it a replacement, we never went in to say, ‘Who’s going to be the Jennifer replacement,’ ” he said, adding that there was “a scenario where maybe [Lopez] would have stayed.”
Additional judges are expected to be announced shortly, with Reilly noting that in a nod to the first season of Idol, they could be fresh faces. “There are some ‘nobodys’ in the mix, there are some people who are not a household name,” he said, citing Jimmy Iovine who wasn’t a household name when he boarded the series.
As for whether Carey’s new Idol deal would eliminate her appearing on X Factor, Reilly said that decision ultimately was in Cowell’s hands. “There’s no legal reason why,” he said of a potential mentorship on X Factor, something Cowell has experessed a strong desire to see. “Whether that would muddy the waters, I don’t know. Simon has a relationship with her as well. I think that’s really up to him if he thinks that’s fun, great. But he is not struggling to get any names involved.”
Lesley Goldberg contributed to this report.