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New 'American Idol' Judges: Search Comes to an End

(Article updated with news that Randy Jackson, Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez will be the American Idol season 10 judges.)

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- American Idol has been one of the most successful television shows in history and, as the only program to claim the top Nielsen rating for six consecutive seasons, a ratings juggernaut for Fox.

The show has finally unveiled its lineup of celebrity judges for its 10th season today, ending months of speculation. Randy Jackson, Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez have officially been named the American Idol season 10 judges. Ryan Seacrest made the announcement on Wednesday, live from auditions at The Forum in Los Angeles.

Simon Cowell, Ellen DeGeneres and Kara DioGuardi will not be returning for the 10th season, which triggered a search for a new panel of judges. Now whether the new personalities will help keep Idol a ratings juggernaut for Fox and its parent company News Corp. (NWSA - Get Report) still remains in question.

News Corp., the world's second-largest media conglomerate behind Disney (DIS), has had little to say about one of its programming jewels. However, chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch did make some mention of the upcoming season during the company's conference call to discuss year-end financial results. "I can assure you that next year's Idol will be different and will be better and that the music will be better," said Murdoch.

While News Corporation doesn't break out specific information on American Idol, a hint at just how large the Idol operation is can be gleaned by taking a look at financial results of the company that owns the proprietary rights to Idol around the world -- CKX (CKXE).

CKX saw revenue from American Idol show drop 17.5% to $79.2 million in 2009 from $96 million in 2008. Season 9 viewership was down 16% from the previous season and its finale delivered its weakest numbers ever for a season-ending show.

Yet the multifaceted operation that is Idol is still a powerhouse. It sees revenues not only from the show itself, but through its seasonal nationwide traveling tour, and the artists who produce lucrative records in its name. Winners and finalists of American Idol and Pop Idol, the British version of the show, have sold more than 47 million albums, and the 2009 American Idol concert tour played 52 dates across the U.S. and Canada.

CKX subsidiary 19 Entertainment has the exclusive right to select the record company that signs the winning contestants. Fox and 19 Entertainment recently announced a recording deal with Universal Music Group to begin this season after its deal with Sony Music Entertainment, a subsidiary of Sony Corporation (SNE - Get Report), ended after last season.

Much, clearly, is at stake -- from the standpoint of ratings, one could easily make the case that the judges are just as important, if not more so, than the fame-seeking singers.

Here, then, is a photo-by-photo look at the new judges, who won't be returning to the show and the names of celebrities who were said to be in the running for the next season of American Idol.
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