Though it's safe to assume that the network would've preferred to save the nail-biting, down-to-the-wire melodrama for the singing competition series' finale, American Idol has secured its panel of judges only days before the show was set to begin live auditions. After weeks of on-again/off-again negotiations, legendary R&B musician Lionel Richie has finalized a deal to join the series. Richie will be joining fellow judges Katy Perry and Luke Bryan as well as returning host Ryan Seacrest. ABC finally confirmed Bryan's signing after days of speculation.
"I am very excited to be joining Katy, Luke and Ryan on 'American Idol. As a singer, songwriter and producer, I feel I can bring a great deal of experience to the table. It's going to be so much fun!"
"I'm excited at the chance to help some deserving artists reach their dreams. To be in a position in my career to help facilitate this along with the other judges is just a complete honor. It's gonna be a blast!"
Richie was said to be a favorite of Perry's to join her at the judges' table, but the singer backed away from negotiations after a low offer from the network. Richie and ABC were finally able to come to terms on an agreement after a search for Richie's replacement saw Charlie Puth, Scooter Braun, Dolly Parton and Common rumored for consideration.
The network and producers had trouble finalizing the show's talent roster after signing Perry ($25 million) and Seacrest ($15 million) to deals that consumed 80% of the initial talent budget allotted by ABC. That left producers with the arduous task of trying to secure two names judges at a total cost of less than $10 million.
For ABC President Channing Dungey, the addition of Richie and Bryan to American Idol will be a huge benefit to the show's contestants:
"Luke and Lionel are the perfect additions to round out our panel of judges for 'American Idol' on ABC. In their respective genres of music, both Luke and Lionel possess insurmountable popularity and award-winning talent that are undeniable, and we are lucky that they will help in paving the way for hopefuls pursuing their dreams on our stage."
American Idol does not have an announced premiere date as of yet, but insiders expect ABC to debut the revamped series after their telecast of the Academy Awards in March 2018.