April 23, 2012 at 10:19 PM ET
Ryan Seacrest is staying put at "American Idol."
As he hinted during an interview on NBC's TODAY show this month, Seacrest will remain with the singing competition show he's hosted since its launch in 2002. He has inked a two-year pact, which will pay him $15 million annually.
The news comes as "Idol," now in its 11th season, has seen its ratings post double-digit declines, down more than 20 percent in total viewers compared with a year earlier. His most recent three-year pact, which included his services on "Idol" as well as other potential projects, paid him $45 million (or $15 million a year).
Fox executives were said to be particularly eager to keep Seacrest, who has been dubbed "the glue" that keeps "Idol" together. Show producers and network execs "cannot envision the show without Ryan," one Idol insider tells THR. "The goal has always been to keep him."
Indeed, like judge Randy Jackson, Seacrest has provided the show stability in what otherwise has been a game of musical chairs. Seacrest has described his role as that of a conductor who keeps all of the trains running on time. The network's other singing competition show, "The X Factor," dumped its host following the series' first season.
To be sure, "Idol" is only one piece of the Seacrest's growing empire. The multihyphenate is close to finalizing a new deal with E! parent NBCUniversal that will include the already-announced role as part of the company's Olympics team this summer. Despite a report late last year that suggested Seacrest was being courted as a potential Matt Lauer replacement at TODAY, Lauer is remaining in the anchor chair with a rich new deal signed in early April.
(TODAY.com is powered by msnbc.com, which is a joint venture between Microsoft and NBC Universal.)
Still, multiple sources have noted that Seacrest's new deal with the expanded company likely will include such things as occasional appearances on the morning show. In question is what his ongoing involvement will be with "E! News," a nightly entertainment news show that Seacrest co-hosts with Giuliana Rancic. Sources point out that his role with the show has waned as he's had to juggle other projects including "Idol," while new NBC cable entertainment chairman Bonnie Hammer has aggressively courted new talent to strengthen the "E! News" bench.
In a meeting with the press in January, NBC entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt suggested he would like to see Seacrest host Barbara Walters-esque specials for his network as well as continue to produce shows through his Ryan Seacrest Productions, the shingle behind E!'s Kardashians franchise and Bravo's recently renewed "Shahs of Sunset."
Whatever the specifics of his new role, they will come in addition to his long-running Clear Channel radio gig and upcoming cable channel. Seacrest, along with partners AEG and agency CAA, announced this year that he will team with billionaire Mark Cuban to rebrand HDNet as a live-entertainment focused network called AXS (pronounced Access). Seacrest's RSP will have a production commitment with the new venture, though it won't preclude his first-look deal with NBCUniversal.
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