American Idol is keeping its judging panel steady. Luke Bryan, Katy Perry and Lionel Richie are all set to return for the show's fourth season on ABC, which will be its 19th overall. Joining them as host will be Idol veteran Ryan Seacrest, the network confirmed Wednesday, after speculation that he possibly was not returning for another season.
"American Idol has always been able to bring people together, entertain and inspire — and I am so proud of how this show continued to deliver joy and laughter into people’s homes during a time when we needed it the most," ABC Entertainment President Karey Burke said in a statement, as per TV Line. "There is no one who we feel more confident about leading us into a new season of high notes than Luke, Katy, Lionel and the incomparable Ryan Seacrest."
Added showrunner Trish Kinane, "Katy, Lionel and Luke are fun, astute and really know how to spot talent. Their chemistry is undeniable, and we are delighted that they, along with host Ryan Seacrest, are returning to find the next superstar and take American Idol to new heights next season." One person missing from the announcement was Bobby Bones, who has served as American Idol's in-house mentor since Season 17, but a production source told TV Line the delay was due to ABC "figuring out logistics for the upcoming season."
The talent roster was unconfirmed until Wednesday, despite the new season being announced in May. This has been the second year that the singing competition was renewed before the judges' and host's contract were re-signed. In 2018, Seacrest was reported to make about $12 million per season, the same as Bryan. Perry was making the most at $25 million per season, while Richie was taking in $10 million.
Last season of American Idol, which was won by Samantha Diaz, known as Just Sam, had to pivot midway through due to the coronavirus pandemic, necessitating the shift of all live performances to virtual at-home performances. In April, Perry said of continuing the show on Facebook Live, "Well, I think that we're all gonna have to be very creative. Know that we're going to get really creative and you'll just have to be tuning into that creativity that we are probably going to create from our individual homes. We'll see how this goes."
Now, as nationwide auditions would be underway, Idol has launched virtual auditions across all 50 states plus, Washington, D.C., for the first time since the show’s beginning. American Idol will return in spring 2021, but it's unclear how the show will be filmed while keeping cast and crew safe.