LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Grammy-winning pop star Mariah Carey will join Fox television's "American Idol" singing competition on the judge's panel next season as the highly rated show tries to recapture viewership that has weakened in recent years.
Kevin Reilly, president of entertainment for Fox Broadcasting, told television critics on Monday in Los Angeles that popular singer Carey will be one of the replacements for departing judges Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez.
Tyler, the front man for rock band Aerosmith, announced his departure earlier this month. Lopez, too, had hinted at her departure in recent weeks, and on Monday Reilly confirmed she will not return for the upcoming season.
Reilly said the deal with Carey was finalized early on Monday, and in a dramatic move for TV critics at the conference, he called the singer on his cell phone to announce the deal.
"Hi Mariah, How are you? I have just uttered your name for the first time. We do have a deal, don't we?," Reilly said.
Carey, answering on speakerphone, said "I am so excited to be joining 'Idol'... I wish I could have been there myself to tell you but this all kind of just happened. I can't wait to get started," the singer said.
Reilly declined to announce other new judges but said that some of "the biggest names in the business are interested in doing the job."
Carey, 42, known for soaring ballads like "Hero" and "We Belong Together," had been named in reports as a frontrunner for a job as one of the show's judges, and she is expected to bring attention and viewers to the 11-year-old singing contest, which lost some 20 percent of its audience this past season.
The singer has won five Grammys, the music industry's top honors, and she sold more than 200 million records worldwide.
Reilly did not discuss financial details of the agreement, but Carey has previously been reported to be in negotiations for a payday of around $15 million a year.
She joins a roster of superstar celebrity judges on reality TV, including Britney Spears on Fox's upcoming second season of "The X Factor" and Howard Stern on NBC's summer series "America's Got Talent".
"American Idol" has been a ratings and advertising juggernaut since it debuted in 2002. But its audiences are now only about half the more than 30 million who watched regularly in the show's 2005 and 2006 heyday.
The most recent season finale in May was the least-watched in "America Idol"'s history, attracting just 21.5 million viewers.
The show returns for a 12th season in January 2013.
(Reporting by Lisa Richwine and Jill Serjeant; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte and Sofina Mirza-Reid)