As previously reported, Fox has been looking to shake-up the "Idol" format, including potentially ditching current judges and bringing back producer Nigel Lythgoe, as well as lowering its audition age to 16. Fox released a flurry of statements saying the move was DeGeneres' decision, but as recent as last week the performer's reps told The Hollywood Reporter she was still willing to fulfill her contract with the show.
"A couple months ago, I let Fox and the 'American Idol' producers know that this didn't feel like the right fit for me," DeGeneres said. "I told them I wouldn't leave them in a bind and that I would hold off on doing anything until they were able to figure out where they wanted to take the panel next. It was a difficult decision to make, but my work schedule became more than I bargained for. I also realized this season that while I love discovering, supporting and nurturing young talent, it was hard for me to judge people and sometimes hurt their feelings. I loved the experience working on 'Idol' and I am very grateful for the year I had. I am a huge fan of the show and will continue to be."
Jennifer Lopez will join "American Idol" as a judge next season, according to a report by Deadline Hollywood. If true, Lopez would be replacing Ellen DeGeneres, who announced her departure from the panel on Thursday afternoon (July 29).
Deadline reports that Lopez sealed her "American Idol" deal earlier this week, following a series of meetings orchestrated by the singer and actress' manager, Benny Medina. The website also reports that it was DeGeneres who asked Fox executives to be released from her contract, which committed the comedian and talk show host to judging "Idol" for one more year.
"She's not comfortable. She's not happy. It's not been fun," the execs were reportedly told by DeGeneres' camp.
At press time, "Idol" executives and Lopez's representatives did not respond to requests for comment. DeGeneres, meanwhile, explained her decision to leave "American Idol" in a statement on her website, saying that being a judge "didn't feel like the right fit for me," but adding, "I loved the experience working on 'Idol' and I am very grateful for the year I had. I am a huge fan of the show and will continue to be."