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Report: Ellen DeGeneres' new 'American Idol' deal is a five-year pact


By Christopher Rocchio, 09/10/2009 

American Idol viewers should apparently get used to seeing Ellen DeGeneres.

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DeGeneres' new American Idol deal is reportedly a five-year contract that will have her serve as a member of the Fox reality competition's judging panel through its thirteenth season, according to The Los Angeles Times.

DeGeneres' unexpected new Idol role was announced on Wednesday evening -- a month after Paula Abdul used her Twitter page to reveal her own surprise decision that she would not be returning as a judge for the show's ninth season.

Fox reportedly grew enamored with DeGeneres after she served as a So You Think You Can Dance guest judge during a July broadcast of the network's reality dance competition, according to The Times.

While Abdul had yet to announce that she would not be returning to Idol, The Times reported that DeGeneres' appearance made an impression with Fox executives who knew it was still unknown whether Abdul would return.

Negotiations between DeGeneres and Fox "heated up" late last week, according to The Times, which added Warner Bros. -- which produces and distributes her syndicated The Ellen DeGeneres Show daytime talk show -- needed to provide its approval to any Idol deal since it has an exclusive television contract with DeGeneres.

Although Warner Bros. did not prevent DeGeneres from signing on with Fox, the studio did extend its own deal with her for three additional years before agreeing to let her also do Idol, according to The Times.

DeGeneres previously stated she plans to continue hosting The Ellen DeGeneres Show while judging Idol.

DeGeneres is currently slated to join returning judges Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson and Kara DioGuardi when the reality series ninth season premieres in January, and The Times reported it has yet to be decided if she'll participate in the pre-taped "Hollywood Week," which is reportedly scheduled to film in late November.

The deal between Fox and DeGeneres means that Idol will continue to use a four-person judging panel -- a format change it first introduced this year with the addition of DioGuardi. 

Even after Abdul reportedly rejected a $5 million a year offer to continue serving on the Fox mega-hit's judging panel, Fox executive Peter Rice told reporters at last month's Television Critics Press Association tour that having four judges was something the network wanted to continue.

"I think that the four judges were getting in a rhythm last year, and we will probably have four judges back," Rice told reporters at the time, according to The Times.

"We have from now until January to introduce a different energy into the panel... There is going to be a search, and we have to cast that in a way that is fun and energizing and creates some real chemistry between the people on the panel."

Somewhat ironically, DeGeneres reportedly said she wasn't a big fan of the four-person judging panel when she had Cowell as a guest on her talk show earlier this year.

"I think everybody liked it the way it was with you and Randy and Paula," said DeGeneres, according to The Times.  "And all of a sudden there's a fourth judge. It gives you less time to talk. It kind of splits it up."

According to The Times, DeGeneres' deal should make it easier for Fox to resign Cowell -- whose current Idol contract expires in May.

(Photo credit Fox)


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