Ryan Seacrest has been called the “busiest man in showbiz,” and now he’s busier than ever.
In The Hollywood Reporter’s June 14, 2017 cover story, sources reported that the TV personality and ABC executives were close to reaching a deal for his return to host the network’s reboot of American Idol, the iconic singing competition show that launched his career.
Many fans of American Idol may find it difficult to imagine the show (which was canceled by Fox in April 2016 due to lagging viewership) coming back without Seacrest, 43, who charmed viewers as the show’s host for its entire 15-season run on Fox. However, his return was far from a foregone conclusion.
THR’s sources provided a behind-the-scenes look into negotiations between ABC and Seacrest, revealing that these discussions were challenging and sometimes tense – not only regarding American Idol, but also Seacrest’s other new partnership with ABC, on the syndicated morning talk show now called Live With Kelly and Ryan. On May 1, 2017, Seacrest finally became the permanent co-host of Live, joining his longtime friend Kelly Ripa; just days later, it was announced that the network would be bringing back Idol.
Seacrest’s road to co-hosting Live was a winding, bumpy one long before Idol came back into the picture – neither he nor ABC execs were initially convinced that he should fill the Live role, which was left open by Michael Strahan when he joined Good Morning America in April 2016 and which was filled in the interim by a series of dozens of guest co-hosts.
When American Idol was canceled that same month, Seacrest found himself without a regular TV gig for the first time since the show debuted in 2002. He opened up in the THR story: “As the end of Idol was approaching, there was a question of, ‘What do I do after this? What can one do after this?’”
Live seemed like a natural fit, given his background as a TV host and his close friendship with Ripa, but he was hesitant for reasons both professional and personal. He was especially concerned about moving from Los Angeles, which had been his home for 20 years, to New York City, where Live is based: “I had so many walls up in my own head about my life in Los Angeles and my role in Los Angeles,” he explains.
When Seacrest guest hosted Live in November 2016, he and Ripa began seriously discussing the possibility of his filling the seat permanently, but it took months before a deal was struck: Seacrest’s famously jam-packed schedule presented challenges.
He has parlayed his success on American Idol into a multimedia empire that now nets him over $50 million a year. After Idol’s cancelation, Seacrest remained busy with a multitude of projects: radio hosting jobs through his contract with iHeartMedia (including On-Air with Ryan Seacrest and American Top 40), red carpet and New Year’s TV hosting gigs for E! and ABC, producing TV shows (including Keeping Up With the Kardashians), endorsement deals, his own menswear line, and more. ABC execs – and Seacrest’s other employers, especially iHeartMedia – had doubts about the feasibility of adding a daily TV show like Live to his schedule.
Seacrest and ABC were able to come to an agreement on Live (largely thanks to Ripa, who strongly advocated for him – “When I look at him, I see the future of this show,” she said shortly after he was hired). Then, days later, ABC announced that it would be rebooting American Idol.
According to THR’s sources, Seacrest initially received an offer of about $10 million to return to Idol from ABC and Idol producer Fremantle North. He planned to negotiate this up to $15 million, to match his highest pay during Idol’s initial run, and he had some concerns about the details of the reboot; however, he clearly assumed they would be able to make a deal – he even started taking meetings about Idol and helped convince pop superstar Katy Perry to sign onto the show as a judge.
That’s why he was shocked when the Idol team promised Perry $25 million and then North came back to him with a new offer, which was reportedly worth about half as much as the first. He was so angered by this slight that he decided to pull out of negotiations altogether.
ABC execs panicked and begged Seacrest to give them a day to pull together a better offer. He wasn’t sure he wanted to continue with the process, but, per THR sources, he received a better offer – and, in July 2017, he announced that he was returning to the show that made him a star.
Idol’s 16th season (and first on ABC) premiered on March 11, and longtime fans of the show were relieved to see Seacrest’s familiar face.
Now that Seacrest has returned as the host of American Idol, his schedule is almost impossibly full – the busiest it’s ever been. But even given the difficult nature of the contract negotiations and his incredibly busy schedule, it’s clear why the star was eager to get back on the Idol stage, where he first became a household name. Despite the success of so many of his other ventures, he still sees Idol as an integral part of his career and even his identity: “Who am I if not the American Idol guy?” he asked in the THR profile last year. He added, “I’ve always loved the show. … And if I could do it forever, I would do it forever. …It has a special place in my heart.”
Of his fast-paced lifestyle, Seacrest has said, “I’ve figured out what I’m better at and what I’m not so good at, and I’m doing the things that I’m better at. The things that I’m not so good at would make me tired and would make me want to slow down.” One thing is for sure: now that he’s made his return to TV, there’s no sign we’ll see him slowing down anytime soon.
Fans can catch Seacrest on ABC every weekday morning at 9 AM on Live With Kelly and Ryan and twice a week on American Idol, which airs Sundays and Mondays at 8 PM. Keep up with the latest on Ryan Seacrest by following him on Facebook, Twitter (@RyanSeacrest) and Instagram.