Fox confirmed Monday that singer Mariah Carey has been named a new judge on “American Idol.”
The official announcement came from Kevin Reilly, Fox Entertainment President, who was “thrilled” to open the Fox executive session at the Television Critics Annual Press Tour in Beverly Hills with the news.
Since the deal was concluded “only hours ago,” Reilly claims, Carey couldn’t be on hand in person for the big announcement. Instead, the network executive called the singer from his cell phone on stage and put her on speaker phone in front of hundreds of reporters.
“Hello Mariah, we do have a deal, don’t we?” Reilly said. “Yes!”
“I’m so excited to be joining ‘Idol,'” Carey replied. “Really, I wanted to be there today but this all just kind of happened really quickly. Can’t wait to get started in a couple months.”
Carey’s salary demand is reportedly in the ballpark of $17 million (out-diva-ing J.Lo’s $12 million paycheck), however, terms of Mariah’s contract were not revealed.
“Idol” judge Randy Jackson, who is Mariah’s co-manager, was “very instrumental” in making the deal, Reilly explained, although he declined to discuss the speculation surrounding Jackson’s future on the show. Following the recent departures of Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler after two seasons, rumors began to surface that Jackson was also considering leaving, or perhaps appearing next season in a different capacity.
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Reilly also acknowledged that “American Idol” is “not the only game in town” these days, facing strong competition from “The Voice” and “The X Factor,” so revamping “Idol’s” judging panel once again is their first fix: “We need to get things fresh.”
While “Idol” is still on top in the ratings, the network exec conceded ratings were down from previous seasons (dropping as much as 23%) — but insists “the show is as vital as ever.”
“And we have the biggest names in the business who want this job,” he added.
With Mariah now locked in, that leaves one spot open at judges’ table. Fox hopes to have the other new judge signed soon, possibly as soon as two weeks.
“We went into this season being very transparent with everybody on the show … we had a dialogue with everybody on the bench,” Reilly explained of the judges’ panel turnover. “It was a great experience with both Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler, but we all decided it was time for change.”
Following the press conference, Mariah tweeted this follow-up:
“It’s gonna be so much fun working on @AmericanIdol. As a singer-songwriter, I’m excited to help find and nurture new talent.”
The new season of “American Idol” returns to Fox in January.