While all eyes are on the succession over at “Late Show with David Letterman,” another high-profile TV perch could also be on the verge of vacancy.
Ryan Seacrest is currently in talks about his future at both Fox Broadcasting, where his two-year deal at “American Idol” is coming to an end, and NBCUniversal, where a contract covering his contributions to an assortment of Peacock-related properties including “Today” expires this month.
Reps for Seacrest, NBCU and Fox declined comment, as did “Idol” production companies 19 Entertainment and FremantleMedia North America.
It’s no coincidence that contracts on his two biggest TV gigs end at the same time; Seacrest is ready to make some big decisions to set the next stage of his career before he turns 40 in December. That could mean exiting “Idol,” the once-dominant Fox singing competish he has hosted for all of its 13 seasons. The franchise has dropped precipitously in the ratings in recent months after weathering years of constant changes at its judges table, leaving Seacrest as “Idol’s” sole mainstay.
However, even in decline “Idol” still commands a sizable audience and Seacrest is said to be loyal to a show that transformed him from a relative unknown to a household name.
Just as uncertain is his future at NBCU, where he signed a wide-ranging pact in 2012 that had Seacrest making occasional appearances on “Today” as well as serving as a correspondent for the conglomerate’s Olympics coverage and host of a short-lived primetime gameshow, “Million Second Quiz,” on NBC last year. He also stayed on at cable network E! albeit in a reduced role that removed him from “E! News Daily” but kept him as host of its “Live From the Red Carpet” specials.
While the NBCU deal helped Seacrest demonstrate he was more than just the face of “Idol,” the biggest question Seacrest is confronting is what he has time for on a busy schedule. The challenge of juggling his Fox and NBCU obligations got particularly onerous earlier this year at the Winter Olympics when his “Idol” responsibilities kept him from actually traveling to Sochi, forcing him to restrict his Olympics contributions to pre-taped segments completed back in Los Angeles.
Seacrest’s schedule is also increasingly filled with off-camera pursuits. Since his last TV deals, activity has ramped up considerably at both Ryan Seacrest Prods., which currently has over 10 series on air, and as an investor in a growing stable of tech firms from Pinterest to smartphone accessory startup Typo.
And that’s not including a nationally syndicated radio show via Clear Channel, where he’s locked in through 2015. He even has other TV work, having renewed a deal with ABC last October to continue hosting and executive producing “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve” specials.
Also complicated is the prospect of Seacrest continuing on “Today,” where his involvement petered out after a series of “On the Verge” interviews with notable up-and-comers last year. Having morning radio duties based across the country from “Today” has made logistics tough here as well. But that isn’t likely to sour Seacrest on NBCU entirely, where he could pursue a different mix of assignment as part of a contract extension.
Keep in mind it’s unlikely NBCU and Fox are the only conglomerates with which he’s talking. RSP’s growing reach opens up new opportunities.
Money is a huge consideration as well. Seacrest was paid a reported $30 million for his current two-year “Idol” deal. He gets an additional $25 million from Clear Channel; his NBCU paycheck is likely significantly less considering his appearances across its channels are more periodic.
Of course, even if the money is right, Seacrest’s TV future may not be entirely up to him. “Idol” could very well opt to gamble on putting a new face out front to rejuvenate the series, perhaps at a considerably lower expense. That wouldn’t be the only change “Idol” could very well face before its 14th season, with the network said to be considering trimming hours, shifting time slots and maybe even moving out of its traditional January launch in order to give the franchise a rest.
Seacrest’s reps are likely negotiating with a different set of execs than when his last contract came around. In the wake of the departure of Fox alternative chief Mike Darnell, News Corp. senior executive VP David Hill was brought in to oversee both “Idol” and “The X Factor.” He could be at the negotiation table along with Fox alternative entertainment exec VP Simon Andreae.
That said, don’t expect Seacrest to whip up the kind of storm that seems to attend every negotiation at the “Idol” judges’ table. His contract extensions tend to play out more quietly–though are no less complicated.