Despite reports that Jennifer Lopez would be the newest “American Idol” judge, FOX Entertainment Chairman Peter Rice announced on Monday that nothing is set in stone.
“There are no signed deals with anybody,” Rice told reporters at the Television Critics Association Summer Session in Beverly Hills on Monday. “There has been tremendous speculation.”
Rice declined to be drawn into speculation on whom the judges would be – Steven Tyler of Aerosmith is also reportedly close to joining the panel – still, nothing was made official.
“The only thing I can tell you with absolute certainty now, is no one has signed a deal yet to appear… who wasn’t here last year,” he said.
Rice also wouldn’t comment on the news that Kara DioGuardi had been ousted from her spot at the judges’ table.
“It’s a really good question,” Rice said when asked about Kara. “As I said before, I’m not gonna get into the speculation about it.”
While Rice also declined to comment on whether the show was moving back to the 3-judge panel format, he did confirm they have met with many people.
“When we have a signed deal, we’re going to announce it. We are excited about the new judging panel and we have met with a [tremendous] amount of people and discussed it,” he said.
The executive did say, however, that much of the speculation about “Idol” that has been reported is correct, though he declined to specify which reports.
Rice said as soon as the judges are locked into place, FOX would reveal the news, noting that a full panel would be in place in time for the round of the competition where the judges first meet the contestants.
“We start the auditions with the judges in mid-September,” he said.
When asked if former “Idol” executive producer Nigel Lythgoe was returning to the fold, Rice said that too wasn’t yet a done deal.
“I’m sorry to have to do this, but there are no deals… on either side of the camera,” he said.
As for “The X Factor,” Simon Cowell’s reality competition series which is headed to FOX in Fall 2011, Rice noted it won’t be “Idol’s” competition.
“They will not be going head to head at all and we’re excited to have both on our network,” he said.
“American Idol’s” last season, Season 9, was the last to feature Cowell, and when asked if the show would get a retool following the sharp-tongued Brit’s departure, Rice noted that the singers are the stars of the reality program.
“We have to put on a great TV show. I think [the central premise] of the show [is], someone literally stands in a line in Nashville and can have a No. 1 album 8 months later because the American public has connected with them in such an intense way --I think that’s great television,” he said. “That is something that we have to evolve without looking at what we’ve done in the past and disregarding that.”
After the Executive Session, Rice took questions from reporters, including why he tried to convince Ellen DeGeneres to stay on the show.
“I think Ellen’s an amazing television personality. She’s incredibly professional,” he said of the comedienne, who announced her departure from “Idol” last week. “I personally thought she was great on the show last year and we would have preferred she stayed.”