“Who am I if not the ‘American Idol’ guy?'” asks the busiest man in showbiz as THR goes inside his fraught negotiation (a lowball offer, ABC’s last-minute scramble toward an eight-figure deal), why he nearly walked away and his reinvention as a morning host. Says Kelly Ripa: “When I look at him, I see the future of this show.”
After 15 seasons as host of American Idol, Ryan had watched the singing competition that made him famous get canceled by Fox in April 2016 and then, after a multi-network bidding war, be revived the following May by ABC — the very company with which he had signed a giant deal to co-host the newly retitled Live With Kelly and Ryan only a few days earlier.
Almost immediately, Seacrest, who had spent the 13 months in between agonizing over the next phase of his career, had a rich offer from ABC and producer Fremantle North America to return. Sure, there would be some negotiating: He’d try to eke out more money — to move him from the $10 million range on the table to the $15 million or so he’d commanded during the show’s heyday — and he’d want a say in its creative direction. But reaching an agreement with the guy Idol creator Simon Fuller calls the show’s “single most important element” initially seemed like a foregone conclusion. Seacrest sat first with Fremantle’s Trish Kinane and then with Disney/ABC’s Ben Sherwood, swapping ideas for how to modernize a show that premiered pre-Facebook, forget Instagram or Snapchat. At one point, he even huddled with Katy Perry, encouraging the pop star to sign on as the anchor judge for the new incarnation.
The plan was to have Seacrest’s deal closed in time to announce it onstage at ABC’s upfront presentation in mid-May. Instead, the upfronts platform was used to announce a deal for Perry, whose traffic-stopping $25 million fee, a new talent show record, would soon leak to the press. Multiple insiders say that Fremantle, now with significantly less flexibility in its Idol budget, came back to Seacrest with an offer roughly half the size of its first. The supposed justification — that the new arrangement would require less of its famously busy host — didn’t make it any less insulting. Shock quickly turned to anger: Was this what 15 years of service got him? So, on June 5, after more than a week of waiting on the network to clean up the mess, his representatives asked that Seacrest’s name be withdrawn from the process. The face of one of the most transformational series of all time would say “This … is American Idol” no more.
ABC’s top executives, allegedly blindsided by Fremantle’s lowball offer, were sent scrambling, according to sources close to the negotiation. Within hours, Sherwood was on the phone with Seacrest, pleading for one more day to make it right. Some in the star’s inner circle counseled him to let the show go. He didn’t need Idol, they told him; he’d already succeeded and moved on — both figuratively and literally — with Live, which had him uproot his life to New York after two decades in Los Angeles. Seacrest had his own reservations, too, wondering whether it was the right time or the right team to reimagine the show under what inevitably would be a media microscope, and all this just as he was settling into what was supposed to be his post-Idol chapter.
More Details @ The Hollywood Reporter