DeGeneres Exits `American Idol' in Sign Wider Retooling Looms for Top Show

Ellen DeGeneres will leave “American Idol,” the Fox talent show that has dominated U.S. ratings for seven years, after being a judge for one season.

“This didn’t feel like the right fit for me,” DeGeneres said yesterday in a statement e-mailed by the News Corp. broadcast network. “While I love discovering, supporting and nurturing young talent, it was hard for me to judge people and sometimes hurt their feelings.”

The departure of DeGeneres, along with the sharp-tongued Simon Cowell, signals some of the biggest changes ever for the long-running talent contest. “Idol” is coming in for a retooling even as it continues to outdraw its nearest competition, ABC’s “Dancing With The Stars” in total viewers. Fox hasn’t said whether Kara DioGuardi, added as a judge two years ago, or the fourth panelist, Randy Jackson, are returning.

Singer-actress Jennifer Lopez is close to signing an agreement to become a judge, the Associated Press reported, citing a person with knowledge of the situation. Fox declined to comment on the speculation. Those under consideration for Cowell’s spot include Steven Tyler and Harry Connick Jr., AP said.

The network has talked to Nigel Lythgoe about returning as executive producer of “Idol,” the New York Times reported on July 27. Ratings for the show fell about 9 percent last season.

“We love Ellen and understand and support her decision to bow out,” Peter Rice, entertainment chairman at Fox Networks, said in the statement.

News Corp., the New York-based media company controlled by Rupert Murdoch, gained 8 cents to $13.04 at 2:27 p.m. New York time in Nasdaq Stock Market trading. It had fallen 5.3 percent this year before today.

Viewer Averages

“American Idol” was the most-watched prime-time program in the broadcast TV season that ended in May. The twice-weekly talent contest averaged 24.9 million viewers on Tuesday nights and 23.7 million on Wednesday nights. The show was also the most popular program among the 18-to-49 year-old viewers that advertisers target.

“Dancing With The Stars” averaged 17.6 million over its two nights each week, according to data from Nielsen Co.

Cowell said in January he would leave “Idol” to host a U.S. version of the music competition “X Factor,” which he created in the U.K. He will be an executive producer and a judge.

TV networks are previewing shows at the Television Critics Association in Beverly Hills, California. Fox’s presentation is Aug. 2.

To contact the reporter on this story: Andy Fixmer in Los Angeles at afixmer@bloomberg.net

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