Rapper Nicki Minaj, country's Keith Urban pump up "American Idol"
By Jill Serjeant
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Controversial rapper Nicki Minaj and country singer Keith Urban joined the "American Idol" judging panel on Sunday, as the ageing Fox show seeks to boost its star power and recapture sliding audiences in a crowded TV talent show field.
In a decision that divided "Idol" fans, Minaj, 29, known for her outlandish outfits and headline-making performances, and Urban were confirmed by Fox hours before auditions in front of judges kicked off in New York for the show's 12th season.
They joined Grammy-winning singer Mariah Carey, whose name was announced in July, and record producer Randy Jackson - who with host Ryan Seacrest are the only remaining members of the original line-up.
The new line-up follows the departures earlier this year of Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler and singer-actress Jennifer Lopez after two years, and returns the singing show to a four-person panel last seen in 2010.
The Fox announcement followed months of rumors about likely contenders for the job, including rapper Kanye West, pop star Katy Perry, Latin singer Enrique Iglesias, former "American Idol" runner-up Adam Lambert, and teen idols Nick Jonas and Miley Cyrus.
"American Idol" has been a ratings juggernaut since it debuted on Fox in 2002 but audiences are now only about half the more than 30 million who watched regularly in the show's 2005 and 2006 heyday.
The last season finale in May drew a record low of 21.5 million viewers and "Idol" lost its eight-year crown as the most-watched program on U.S. television to "Sunday Night Football". The 12th season will start broadcasting in January 2013.
Competition in the TV talent show market has increased dramatically in the last year with the hiring of pop star Britney Spears for a reported $15 million salary for "The X Factor" on Fox, and radio DJ Howard Stern for NBC summer hit "America's Got Talent". Continued...