Host to replace Paula Abdul as fourth judge

Ellen DeGeneres has signed on to replace Paula Abdul as a judge on “American Idol.”

Fox announced the move late Wednesday, after DeGeneres revealed the deal on her syndicated talker. DeGeneres will join fellow judges Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson and Kara DioGuardi in January.

DeGeneres told her audience that she had been talking to Fox and “Idol” producers 19 Entertainment and FremantleMedia for several weeks about joining the show — but the news managed to stay quiet until now.

“I’ve been dealing with this for the last couple of weeks, and I’ve been dying to tell everyone,” she said on her show. “It’s been so hard to keep it a secret.”

DeGeneres said she’ll continue to host her daytime gabber. According to various reports, DeGeneres has sealed a deal with Warner Bros. that extends “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” to 2014. The Warner Bros. reup was connected to her “Idol” deal.

“I’m going to have a day job and a night job — that’s the times we’re living in. We’re all doing that,” she quipped.

As a huge fan of the show, DeGeneres also said that she’s never missed an episode, and she hopes to be the voice of the consumer on the “Idol” panel.

“I love music,” she said. “Hopefully, I’m the people’s point of view… I’m looking at it as someone who’s going to buy that music.”

In the Fox statement, DeGeneres called the gig a “dream come true.”

“Think of all the money I’ll save from not having to text in my vote,” she joked.

“American Idol” creator-exec producer Simon Fuller said he believed DeGeneres’ “love of music and understanding of the American public” would bring “a unique human touch to our judging panel.” Fellow exec producer Cecile Frot-Coutaz added that the show would benefit from DeGeneres’ “immense warmth and compassion.”

It’s a return to primetime for DeGeneres, whose resume includes the groundbreaking mid-1990s ABC sitcom “Ellen.”

“We feel that her vast entertainment experience — combined with her quick wit and passion for music — will add a fresh new energy to the show,” said Fox alternative topper Mike Darnell.

DeGeneres fills the void left by the departure of Abdul, who very publicly announced her intention not to return to “Idol” this season after failing to strike a new deal with Fox and producers 19 Entertainment and FremantleMedia North America.

That led to speculation over how, and even whether, Abdul would be replaced on “Idol.”

A slew of guest judges have taken part in this summer’s “Idol” auditions, including Victoria Beckham, Mary J. Blige, Kristin Chenoweth, Joe Jonas, Neil Patrick Harris, Avril Lavigne, Katy Perry and Shania Twain — creating yet more speculation that one of them might end up permanently in the chair.

DeGeneres was a surprise pick, however, as her name had not popped up anywhere as a contender.

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