‘American Idol’: As Clock Runs Down, Search Narrows for Third Judge

Once, twice, three time’s an offer? As an October deadline approaches for “American Idol,” Variety hears Lionel Richie is back in the running for the third seat on the ABC reboot. Richie’s return comes after several stalled negotiations over compensation for the TV gig. Katy Perry, the first to sign on, grabbed more than half the talent budget for her salary alone, while returning host Ryan Seacrest also saw a significant payday, reportedly making $15 million for his participation.

On Sunday, Variety reported that Luke Bryan had been confirmed for a second seat at the table — his salary as yet unknown. The third spot has seen a slew of rumored — and considered — contenders, including Charlie Puth, Keith Urban, and manager Scooter Braun. Even Dolly Parton’s name was thrown in the ring for a time. Most recently, rapper Common was approached about joining the panel, says an insider, but the new Emmy winner — who’s a Tony Award shy of an EGOT — turned down the offer. (Variety has reached out to reps for Common and Richie for comment.)

On Sept. 25, TMZ floated Spotify executive Troy Carter’s name. The former manager of Lady Gaga and Meghan Trainor reportedly had taken a recent meeting with FremantleMedia, the production company behind “Idol.” But sources close to the production tell Variety that Richie is the one “Idol” wants, and that so long as they can agree on the price, the deal should close in a matter of days.

It has to, as “Idol” is scheduled to begin shooting next Tuesday. As Variety reported this week, ABC sources acknowledge privately that the beginning of on-camera auditions may need to be delayed if the show cannot nail down a third host in time. “Idol” is expected to premiere shortly after ABC’s March 4 telecast of the Academy Awards, the broadest promotional platform the network has to offer.

ABC’s move in May to snatch up a revival of the series — and secure Perry as a judge — reignited the music competition space. Fox has since giving a greenlight to “The Four,” a new series from Armoza Formats, while Netflix is developing “Rhythm & Flow,” a hip-hop competition show from producers John Legend and Jeff Gaspin. NBC, meanwhile, has signed on “Idol” alums Jennifer Hudson and Kelly Clarkson as coaches on its long-running singing competition, “The Voice.”

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