Insider: 'American Idol' to Axe All 4 Judges as Part of Massive Makeover (Exclusive)
"American Idol" is going nuclear for Season 13.
None of the four judges on the singing competition will be asked to return next season, an individual with knowledge of Fox's plans told The Wrap. Longtime producer Nigel Lythgoe is expected to get the boot. And despite reports to the contrary, Fox isn't even considering bringing former judge Jennifer Lopez back as a lifesaver for next season.
Like we said: nuclear.
"All four are gone," the insider told TheWrap. "They feel they've lost their core audience and they want it back."
Also read: Is This 'American Idol's' Worst Week Ever?
Driven by this belief and the need to attract younger viewers, Fox is set to make major on-air changes to "Idol," the most notable of which will be an entirely new judging panel. New judges pop icon Mariah Carey, rapper Nicki Minaj and country star Keith Urban won't be back. Even original judge Randy Jackson won't survive the blood bath this time around.
A Fox spokesperson declined to comment for this story.
All four judges have options to return for another season, but Fox won't be picking them up, according to the knowledgeable individual, who said: "No more big checks for divas."
The network has resolved to stop paying the huge salaries it has been shoveling out for its big name talent, i.e. Carey's reported $18 million package, Minaj's $12 million salary and former judge Jennifer Lopez's $15 million.
The show's format will also change. Its look will be redesigned and the dated tribute nights will be a thing of the past. But the show's trademark audition episodes will continue.
Behind the scenes, Fox Broadcasting chairman Kevin Reilly is charged with "fixing Idol." And one of the first changes will occur at the top of the food chain: Longtime executive producer Lythgoe is expected to be replaced. What that means for the show's producers, FremantleMedia, remains to be seen.
Fox's meltdown has everything to do with the talent competition's declining viewership. Its ratings are already down 22 percent this season and it hit a series low for ratings last Thursday, when it attracted only 11 million viewers and a 2.4 rating/7 share in the ad-coveted 18-49 demographic. The ratings slide is especially problematic during May Sweeps, where ratings numbers are used to dictate advertising rates.
Viewing has been in decline for several seasons now. At its height during Season 6, "Idol" attracted about 30 million viewers an episode.
So, why not just cancel the show?
"Idol" is still a huge revenue generator for Fox, bringing in $836.4 million in ad revenue last year, according to Kantar Media. Plus, it has nothing to replace it. Simon Cowell's "The X Factor" is far from being "Idol's" heir apparent after failing to meet ratings expectations over its first two seasons. It, too, is undergoing another round of changes for Season 3, with pop star Britney Spears and record executive L.A. Reid not returning.
"Idol's" problems are compounded by the success of NBC's "The Voice." Currently airing its fourth season, the show recently crossed a milestone when it beat "Idol" (and everyone else on the small screen for that matter) in both total viewers and the advertiser-coveted 18-49 demographic. Additionally, "The Voice" took "Idol's" spot in the Emmy race last year, replacing it among the nominees in the Outstanding Reality Competition category.
Fox and Fremantle declined comment for this story, as did a representative for Keith Urban.
Representatives for Randy Jackson, Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Sharon Waxman contributed to this report.