Abdul departure may tarnish "American Idol"

Wed Aug 5, 2009 11:01pm EDT
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By Alex Dobuzinskis

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Paula Abdul's departure from "American Idol" leaves the TV talent show without the judge who became a fan favorite for saying nice things about bad performers, and industry watchers expect viewership of the top-rated U.S. program to keep slipping.

Abdul sought a pay raise and was in contract negotiations with the show's producers and the Fox network that airs "Idol" when talks broke down on Tuesday and she announced on social networking website Twitter that she would leave the show.

If her departure hurts ratings for the program, Fox could find itself with fewer advertising revenues for the TV singing contest that, for its makers, has become a $1 billion-plus brand.

When "Idol" was launched in 2002, it boasted 1980s pop star Abdul as its best-known judge, along with music producer Randy Jackson and Simon Cowell, a sharp-tongued British export and music industry executive.

Over the years, winners like Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood gained pop music stardom, and Cowell's popularity rose. Abdul often sparred verbally with him on air, between her effusive stream-of-consciousness praise to contestants.

"She'll be remembered for not making sense on a number of occasions. She'll be remembered as part of a dysfunctional family that we've all come to love," said Nigel Lythgoe, a former executive producer of "Idol."

In a poll from AOL website PopEater.com, 74 percent of the 30,000 respondents said "Idol" would be worse without Abdul.

Lythgoe, who is no longer involved with "Idol," said he expected the show to survive nicely due to its focus on contestants -- not the judges.   Continued...

<p>Judges Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson look towards the audience between taping at the finale of Fox's "American Idol" at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, May 25, 2005. REUTERS/Chris Pizzello</p>