LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - “American Idol” fans have launched a grass-roots campaign to keep Paula Abdul as a judge on the No. 1-rated U.S. television show after her manager said she had not received a new contract proposal and might leave the singing contest.
Former “Idol” contestants joined in the #keepaula campaign on Twitter and American Idol Internet forums. Abdul -- a mainstay of the show since 2002 -- took to her own Twitter page to thanks fans for their support.
“If it weren’t for you, this specific time and situation would feel a lot worse! xoP,” Abdul wrote.
Abdul’s manager, David Sonenberg, told the Los Angeles Times over the weekend that he had no new contract proposal from “Idol” producers, even though auditions are due to start August 6 for Season 9, which will be broadcast in January 2010.
“Very sadly, it does not appear that she’s going to be back on ‘Idol,'” Sonenberg told the newspaper.
Fellow judge Simon Cowell, who has cast doubt on his own future with “American Idol” after 2010, said on Monday he wanted Abdul back. “I don’t get a lot of say. I’ve just made it clear that I want Paula on the show,” Cowell told celebrity news show “Extra.”
The fate of Kara DioGuardi, the fourth judge who joined “Idol” last year, is also uncertain.
Despite sliding viewership, “American Idol” is still America’s most watched TV show with an average 26.3 million per episode. The show airs in more than 100 countries and has grown into an estimated $1 billion-plus brand with its name on everything from ice-cream to a theme-park attraction.
On Twitter, fans said the show wouldn’t be the same without Abdul. “I’ll B heartbroken if Paula doesn’t come back 2 idol. it won’t work without her rainbows&colors,” tweeted ashley_mp.
19 Entertainment, which co-produces the show with FremantleMedia, said it had no comment on Monday. Contract negotiations are handled mainly by “Idol” producers rather than Fox television, which broadcasts the show.
Some media watchers suggested the comments by Abdul’s manager were a ploy to increase her payday. Last week, “Idol” producers renewed host Ryan Seacrest’s contract for three years for a reported $15 million a year -- triple his past salary.
“This kind of public talk is usually a negotiation strategy; Abdul herself has said as much in interviews,” wrote Time magazine entertainment writer James Poniewozik.
Last week Cowell described as “absolute nonsense” reports that he had signed a $144 million deal to stay with “Idol,” but did confirm that he was discussing his future after repeated comments earlier this year that he was growing bored with the show.
Reporting by Jill Serjeant