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‘American Idol’: Country Star Luke Bryan to Take Second Seat at Judges Table (EXCLUSIVE)

With a week left until “American Idol” auditions are due to start, the show has confirmed Luke Bryan as a second judge, sources tell Variety. The country star will join Katy Perry for the series’ reboot on ABC. While the third spot has yet to be locked down, word from inside the production is that “Idol” will stick with a panel of three and not four judges.

Lionel Richie, who was reported to have been in advanced talks to join the show, appears to no longer be in the running. Other artists considered for the panel included Charlie Puth and Keith Urban, though it looks unlikely that either will round out the judges’ table.

ABC declined to comment on Bryan’s deal.

ABC’s revival of the long-running Fox series has been slowly taking shape since it was announced in May. Perry was revealed to be a judge shortly after the deal at ABC was made, for a salary of $25 million.

Ryan Seacrest, who hosted every season of the original “American Idol,” is returning to the show, and told reporters backstage at this weekend’s iHeartRadio Music Festival that an announcement about judges is expected imminently.

“American Idol” is slated to premiere in early March, launching its debut episode shortly after the Oscars, which will be held on March 4. It is unclear where the show will sit on ABC’s primetime schedule, though it is believed to be airing on Sunday and Monday nights.

Luke Bryan, who has released five albums since 2007, has seen his last three releases debut at No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Country Album charts. He is set to be honored on CMT’s “Artists of the Year” special on Oct. 18, joining  Chris Stapleton, Florida Georgia Line, Jason Aldean, Keith Urban, and Sam Hunt on the broadcast.

Variety has reached out to Bryan’s rep for comment.

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