Steven Tyler Bails on ‘American Idol’

Fox series may be in the market for two new judges for 2013

American Idol faces another major casting overhaul, as its most flamboyant celebrity judge has decided to walk away from the Fox juggernaut.

Aerosmith singer Steven Tyler on Thursday announced he would not return for Idol’s 12th season, saying that it was time for him to get back in the saddle again with his bandmates.

“After some long…hard…thoughts, I’ve decided it’s time for me to let go of my mistress American Idol before she boils my rabbit,” Tyler said, in his inimitable horndog space cadet manner. “Idol was over-the-top fun, and I loved every minute of it. Now it’s time to bring rock back.”

The singer’s brief statement went on to promote the band’s upcoming album, the first Aerosmith release since 2004’s Honkin’ on Bobo.

Mike Darnell, president of alternative entertainment, Fox Broadcasting Company, confirmed Tyler’s decision in a statement. “We are very sad that Steven has chosen to focus more on his music, but we always knew when we hired a rock ’n’ roll legend, he would go back to the music,” Darnell said. “We all wish him all the best and would love to have him back on the show anytime.”

Tyler joined Idol in August 2010, while Fox was negotiating with fellow judge Jennifer Lopez. Tyler and J. Lo appeared alongside Idol standby Randy Jackson throughout the show’s 10th and 11th cycles.

While she has yet to make a final decision, Lopez also has indicated that she isn’t likely to return for another season of Idol. In a live appearance on NBC’s Today show, the singer on Thursday said she was weighing her options.

“It’s been on my mind a lot,” Lopez told Today’s Savannah Guthrie. “I signed on to do one year…and I wound up doing the two years, and now it’s like, OK, do we continue on this journey? It’s a tough decision either way but I have to say that there are so many things that I do and that I put on hold for [Idol].”

When pressed further by Guthrie, Lopez said, “I am thinking that maybe it’s time for me to go and do other things that I really love to do.”

Naturally, Lopez’s statements could be construed as an attempt to goad Fox and Idol producer FremantleMedia into offering her more cash for a third season. The singer appeared on Today to talk up her new film, Ice Age: Continental Drift.

Among the short list of performers rumored to be in line for a shot at the judges’ panel are Katy Perry, Nicki Minaj and Idol alum Adam Lambert. While the show’s shooting schedule is undoubtedly a time suck, the compensation appears more than adequate. Tyler is said to have brought in $9 million per season, while J. Lo’s salary for her second cycle was nearly double that.  

If Lopez future is up in the air, emcee Ryan Seacrest is certain to return to the Idol fold. In April, the multi-hyphenate signed a two-year contract extension said to be worth $30 million.

While much hay has been made regarding Idol’s inexorable decline—the series now draws a little more than half the 30.3 million viewers it averaged in its highest-rated season (2006)—the musical showcase remains the biggest draw on TV, aside from the NFL.

Per Nielsen live-plus-seven-day data, season 11 of Idol averaged 19.1 million viewers and a 5.8 rating in the crucial adults 18-to-49 demo. By comparison, NBC’s The Voice last season averaged 13.3 million viewers and a 5.1 in the demo.

For all the perceived wear and tear, Idol remains the most sought-after series on the TV dial. During season 11, the unit cost of a 30-second spot during the Wednesday night show was $505,000, while the Thursday results show fetched around $475,000 per ad. 

Idol returns in January 2013. Thus far, the show has completed five rounds of auditions for season 12; the contestant search resumes next Tuesday (July 17) in New Orleans. 

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