'Idol' exec Warwick inks new deal

To remain at the helm of the reality series

One by one, Fox's "American Idol" is securing its key players.

"Idol" executive producer/showrunner Ken Warwick has inked a three-year deal with the show's co-producer, FremantleMedia North America, to remain at the helm of television's top series. The pact, said to be well into the eight-figure range, is believed the richest for a reality showrunner.

It comes on the heels of another three-year deal -- a $45 million agreement inked recently by host Ryan Seacrest with "Idol" co-producer 19 Entertainment -- that broke a money record for a reality host.

FremantleMedia declined comment on Warwick's deal.

Warwick has been on "Idol," created by Simon Fuller, since the show's first episode in 2000. He was co-showrunner for the first seven seasons alongside Nigel Lythgoe and became sole showrunner when Lythgoe left last summer.

During his first solo stint at "Idol's" helm this past season, Warwick spearheaded a series of format tweaks, including fewer audition-based and more Hollywood-round episodes, 36 contestants instead of 24 competing in the semifinals and the return of the wild-card round.

On "Idol," he oversees all aspects of the show, including sponsorship deals, product integration and music.

"Idol's" ratings have eroded the past couple of seasons, following an industrywide trend, but it remains television's top-rated and most profitable series by a wide margin. The show recently landed eight Emmy nominations, including its seventh consecutive nom for best reality competition series.

In addition to his work on "Idol," Warwick was showrunner on the first season of NBC's "America's Got Talent," co-produced by Fremantle and executive produced by "Idol" judge Simon Cowell.

As for the rest of the "Idol" gang, Cowell is under contract through its upcoming Season 9 but is in talks for a gigantic new deal to continue beyond that. Cowell also has expressed confidence that another judge, Paula Abdul, will return despite recent comments by her manager that she might not because of compensation issues.

Warwick is repped by CAA and attorney Anita First.