The move to secure Richie rounds out the revived singing competition's on-camera talent roster for its upcoming first season on ABC, with Richie joining fellow judges Luke Bryan and Katy Perry as well host Ryan Seacrest. It also puts "Idol" back on schedule. With shooting on live auditions slated to begin Tuesday, ABC and producer FremantleMedia faced the possibility of having to delay the start of production if the judges table had not been set.
ABC also on Friday confirmed that Bryan is joining the show. Variety broke news of his involvement last weekend.
A legendary R&B musician, Richie was said by sources to be a favorite choice of Perry, and had for months been in engaged in on-again, off-again talks. But the "Hello" singer had backed away from discussions after fielding a lowball offer from ABC.
"Luke and Lionel are the perfect additions to round out our panel of judges for 'American Idol' on ABC," said Channing Dungey, president, ABC Entertainment. "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."
The network and producers had trouble filling out the show's talent roster after signing Perry in May to a deal that gives her $25 million for one season. Ryan Seacrest later struck a deal that gave him $15 million to host this season. The Perry and Seacrest agreements left fewer than $10 million in the initial talent budget ABC laid out for the show. But Richie and ABC were finally able to come to terms aster a search that saw names such as Charlie Puth, Keith Urban, Scooter Braun, Dolly Parton, Common, and Troy Carter rumored and considered.
ABC has yet to announce a premiere date for "Idol," but is believed to be eyeing a debut in March, after the network's telecast of the Academy Awards.
"I'm excited at the chance to help some deserving artists reach their dreams," said Bryan. "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!"
"I am very excited to be joining Katy, Luke and Ryan on 'American Idol,'" said Richie. "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!"
Trish Kinane, president of Entertainment Programming, FremantleMedia North America, executive producer and showrunner of "American Idol," said, "We have taken our time to get the right mix of amazing talent for the new Idol judging panel. Our viewers expect musical credibility, passion and a true concern for the contestants; and with Luke Bryan and Lionel Richie joining the brilliant Katy Perry, we have two more world-class musical powerhouses eager to get to work and identify the next generation of superstars."
Peter Hurwitz, CEO and president of 19 Entertainment-parent Core Media Group, also a producer on the show, said, "This extraordinary panel of judges speaks volumes about the continued power of the iconic 'American Idol' brand. We are thrilled to have Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan join Katy Perry and, ultimately, millions of viewers as we begin this new era on ABC."