Ryan Seacrest’s Rocky Road Back to ‘American Idol’

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Even looking at Ryan Seacrest’s schedule might be enough to exhaust most people. The television host and multimedia mogul has been a star since the launch of the television show American Idol, captured the hearts of millions of viewers.

That show set off a rare craze in the entertainment industry. While Idol winners, including Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, and Jordin Sparks, had their moments in the limelight and went on to incredible careers after their respective seasons, one constant on the show, year after year, was Seacrest and his easy-going charm as a host.

But all good things must come to an end. For American Idol, that end was in sight because of its declining viewership and increasing production costs. In its heyday, American Idol had 38 million viewers. By its last season, the viewer count was down to 13 million for the final episode—a still impressive number for most shows. When the show ended its incredible 15-season run in 2016, many fans wondered where Seacrest would end up and what his next big project would be.


Seacrest Isn’t One to be Idle Even Without American Idol

Everyone knew Seacrest would find more projects after Idol ended—he’s far too driven and hard-working to sit on the sidelines. The question wasn’t if he would find a new project in which to pour his energy. The question was what his new project would be.

Idol had shot Seacrest to fame, and he loved hosting the show. No longer having that constant in his life would undoubtedly feel strange to Seacrest. And the emotional attachment he’s talked about having for the show in prior interviews likely influenced his choice of future projects.

Since his early days of hosting that show, his career had skyrocketed. Although his gig as Idol host was arguably his biggest claim to fame, he had his hand in many different industries, achieving great success with most of his efforts. He has radio shows, a production company, a contract with the E! network, a popular clothing line, and the Ryan Seacrest Foundation. Although he already had an intensely busy schedule, he was eager to continue delivering his special blend of entertainment to his fans and keep working on projects that interested him.

But after parting ways with high-profile jobs, the pressure can be intense for celebrities to find their next gig. They don’t want to wait too late and feel the mounting pressure, but they also don’t want to commit to the first contract they’re offered just to fill their time. They want to wait for the right project to come along, but the key is not to wait too long. Luckily for fans eager to see Seacrest again on their television screens, they didn’t have to wait long after American Idol to find out what the future held for him.


The Birth of Live with Kelly and Ryan

While Seacrest considered his next move, he also thought about which directions he didn’t want to move in. He had tried reality shows in the past, including Knock Knock Live and Million Second Quiz. They hadn’t been successful, which made him think twice about entering that arena again, especially so soon after the wild success of American Idol.

Then he learned he might have the opportunity to star alongside a good friend of his, upbeat television personality Kelly Ripa. It seemed like the perfect blend of personalities—both Seacrest and Ripa have energy, charisma, and high entertainment value.

He also knew he would like his co-host and that the show had a built-in audience. The show had been successful through its many evolutions since its debut, even when some hosts left and had to be replaced. Ripa began starring on the show with co-host Regis Philbin in 2001. That partnership continued until 2011 when Philbin left the show and was eventually replaced with former NFL star Michael Strahan. Strahan’s departure in 2016 led those at the show to search for a new co-host.

While Seacrest was happy to serve as guest host on the show as Ripa sought a replacement for Strahan, he wasn’t certain he wanted to uproot his life by moving to the East Coast. However, he adjusted to the idea enough to put his name in the ring as a potential co-host for Ripa.

By the time he was ringing out 2016 and ushering in 2017, Seacrest had decided to join Ripa on her show. From there, the other main sticking point was allowing enough time for all his radio shows and other commitments. The schedule was worked out, and although it would be extremely busy, Seacrest had a well-earned reputation as a hard worker.

Although Seacrest was the person Ripa wanted sitting in the co-host’s chair, it was more than friendship that had Ripa pulling for his hiring—it was the indisputable fact he is good at what he does. After dozens of guest hosts had given Ripa’s show their best efforts, and salary negotiations were figured out, along with the schedule, Seacrest had the job.

Seacrest inked the deal on April 30, 2017, and he started his duties the very next day, jumping right into work in typical Seacrest fashion. But when a person is as driven as Ryan Seacrest, they want to take full advantage of all the opportunities that come their way. And there was still another big opportunity heading toward him. This new offer was what many fans had waited for ever since Seacrest had concluded the American Idol run after season 15 by saying, “Goodbye, for now.”


The Rebirth of American Idol

Idol hadn’t been gone for long before the rumors of a reboot began to surface, with some people believing there was still life left in the show even after 15 seasons. The show was canceled in April 2016, but shortly after that a bidding war erupted for the rights to the show, with multiple networks trying to land the superstar-launching show.

When ABC emerged as the winner of the bidding war in May 2017, Seacrest received an offer from ABC and the producer Fremantle North America, just 13 months after the show was originally canceled, to return to the helm as the host of the show. He was just days into his new job on Live with Kelly and Ryan when the American Idol call came.

Before contacting Seacrest about the offer, ABC executives talked to Ripa about the American Idol reboot. Both American Idol and Live with Kelly and Ryan are ABC shows, and they wanted to keep Ripa in the loop as to what their plans and visions were regarding the reboot. Although the judges would all be different from the prior seasons, the new network was eager to bring on Seacrest as a face the viewers would recognize and love.

A savvy businessman, Seacrest began negotiations for the hosting gig. Although he’d always been vocal about his love of American Idol, he still was interested in earning what he considered a fair amount for his experience and star power. The offer was in the neighborhood of $10 million for the first season of the new reboot, but Seacrest was negotiating for a higher payday. He wanted more along the lines of $15 million, which he had received at the height of the original show’s popularity.

In addition, Seacrest, who had been the driving force behind the immensely popular show Keeping Up with the Kardashians, wanted some control over the creative direction the rebooted Idol would take. With his proven track record of knowing what the public wants in a show and a host, many producers would welcome the input and experience Seacrest would bring to the table.

To many involved, it seemed a slam dunk that negotiations would be settled and Ryan would return to Idol. After meetings with personnel for Fremantle North America and ABC officials, Seacrest helped brainstorm how to make the reboot relevant. Rejuvenating the brand was something Seacrest worked hard at, even encouraging pop star Katy Perry to consider signing on as a judge. Bringing star power and likeability to the judge’s seats was crucial for the reboot because of the popularity of the original three Idol judges—Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul, and the tough but honest Simon Cowell.

When American Idol first launched, it was a one-of-a-kind show. But these days, many other singing competitions, such as The Voice, are offering steep competition. Part of the reboot’s challenge was going to be setting itself apart from its competitors. One way to do that was by bringing back a familiar face like Seacrest. It could help fuel nostalgic feelings for the early days of Idol.


Seacrest’s Negotiations Continue for American Idol

While the goal was to announce Seacrest’s new American Idol deal in mid-May 2017, that didn’t happen. Instead, that moment focused on talk about the signing of Perry as a judge for a jaw-dropping $25 million. To put that deal in perspective, prior American Idol judge Jennifer Lopez brought in $12 million to $20 million per season for the time she spent on the show. It was rumored Mariah Carey earned somewhere around $18 million for her time as a judge.

With such a huge amount of its talent budget already spoken for because of Perry’s deal, negotiations with Seacrest stalled after Fremantle tried to lowball the original figure they allegedly discussed with Seacrest. The alleged offer also came with one perk—the revised schedule would take less of Seacrest’s time.

Seacrest had at least one former Idol heavyweight in his corner. The show’s creator Simon Fuller, who has remained friends with Seacrest over the years, has been vocal about his belief Seacrest should have been signed before anyone else for the reboot.

Seacrest’s representatives requested his name be withdrawn from consideration for hosting the show. With all his other business endeavors and a new show to concentrate on with the launch of “Live with Kelly and Ryan,” he didn’t need the income or the exposure. And he already had plenty to keep his schedule jam-packed for the foreseeable future.

Plus, a commitment to Idol would mean traveling back to California frequently because “Live with Kelly and Ryan” is filmed in New York. Filming two shows in two states spread that far apart was a major time and lifestyle commitment. It would require him to fly to Los Angeles to be there Sunday nights for American Idol and then hop a red-eye flight to be back in New York by Monday morning for his “Live with Kelly and Ryan” and radio show ‘On Air with Ryan Seacrest’ duties.

In interviews, Seacrest had mentioned his desire to start a family at some point. He had also talked about finding more balance between work and his personal life. With a number of jobs, it can be hard to continue to juggle all those balls at once. A commitment to Idol might require so much time and energy that it would delay the balance Seacrest was seeking.


Signing the American Idol Deal

When ABC executives heard Seacrest’s name might be taken out of consideration, they asked Seacrest to give them one more day to come up with an offer. A lot was riding on this reboot of American Idol, and the powers-that-be realized the importance of giving the audience the popular host they had loved in the first 15 years of the show.

On the day after ABC asked for more time, Seacrest was presented with a new offer—one that allegedly was higher than $10 million, according to sources. He accepted the deal and was back in the saddle for the reboot.

Unlike the first season of the original show, when Seacrest started his first day on the show as a virtual unknown other than a radio show, this time he was setting foot on the stage as a proven and beloved host. Also, unlike anything else Seacrest had faced before, the release of the new American Idol show was accompanied by allegations of sexual harassment leveled at Seacrest by a former stylist. Seacrest, who has always had a squeaky-clean reputation in an industry where scandals and allegations are commonplace, has emphatically denied the allegations. He has also had widespread support from people who have worked with him, including Ripa and the ABC Entertainment president, Channing Dungey.

The 16th season of American Idol—or the first season of the reboot, as some viewers considered it—premiered on March 11, 2018, with Seacrest interacting with the new judges: Katy Perry, music icon Lionel Richie, and country crooner Luke Bryan. While the show is a big investment and a bit of a gamble because of the high salaries given to both Perry and Seacrest, Idol has a proven track record with audiences and has cemented its ability to turn unknown contestants into superstars who continue to make relevant and popular music.

Those high salaries will be offset, in part, because of the big dollar amounts the show can earn from advertisers eager to air their commercials during the show’s airtime. Sponsorship deals also take the sting out of that budget. Plus, ABC can do a lot of in-house advertising for American Idol. Because Seacrest stars on two high-profile shows on ABC, the opportunity for in-house advertising was a perk the network would pursue. The contestants, who will be building their fan base with each subsequent week they perform, will likely end up making appearances on Live with Kelly and Ryan, which should only help with the appeal of both shows.


Seacrest Is His Generation’s Dick Clark

As Seacrest continues to split his time amongst his awe-inspiring number of jobs and duties, including the Idol reboot and “Live with Kelly and Ryan,” Seacrest’s schedule shows no signs of clearing up. While that crazy schedule might prove too much for some people, Seacrest seems to welcome it, handling it well, thanks in part to the team of people he has behind him every step of the way.

Just when Seacrest’s schedule seems like it can’t be any fuller, he finds a way to cram a new project into his week. And much like Dick Clark, one of his early-day idols, Seacrest will likely go down in history as one of the most influential and well-liked entertainers of his generation.

For more information about Ryan Seacrest click here or connect with him on Twitter (@ryanseacrest) and Instagram

Ron Blair is a native New Yorker, but moved to Southern California in his early 20’s. Apart from producing his several podcasts, Ron spends his free time training for and competing in triathlons. As a journalist, Ron has published stories for HuffPost as well as BuzzFeed and Motherboard. As a contributor to LA News Watch, Ron mostly covers science and health stories, but no topic is off limits if he finds it interesting.

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