When Simon Cowell decided to leave American Idol, many thought his exodus would be the final blow to the show. The ratings were already sagging a bit, and most observers assumed he was the main draw that still attracted a crowd. Those fears ultimately proved baseless. Last season not only achieved very solid ratings but also renewed viewer enthusiasm. New judges Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez found their grooves by midseason and bonded well with Randy, offering a panel of experts that were perhaps a bit nicer but also more willing to offer constructive criticism. Much of the success should be placed at their feet, but perhaps more of it is owed to another man.

Apart from Randy Jackson, Ryan Seacrest has been the one on-air consistent through American Idol’s run. With each passing season, he’s taken on a slightly expanded role, making sure the program’s timing out correctly and seamlessly transitioning between the judges and contestants. It’s now widely agreed he’s the best live host on television, but is he irreplaceable? Fox is wondering exactly that as their negotiations with the longtime emcee have gotten a bit contentious.

According to The Washington Post, Seacrest’s contract is up at the end of this season. He currently has a job over at E! News as well as a highly rated radio show, and rumors have consistently emerged tying him to more potential jobs. The latest involves Today, but he’s been largely mum when asked about whether he'd take over on the morning show.

American Idol’s ratings are not what they once wore. The show still attracts millions of viewers but no where close to the thirty some million it did in its heyday. That slump likely requires budget cuts, and with so many other options, it’s unclear if Seacrest will be willing to consent to less money. I think the show needs to pay him. Without his steady hand, I’m not sure the program could maintain its current viewership, but maybe I’m wrong. Maybe his loss would only bring about marginal declines.

What do you think? Would you watch Idol without Ryan Seacrest? Let us know by voting in the poll below…


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