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) --

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 season, a ratings juggernaut for



But now, as the show heads into its 10th season, the format and personalities that have made it a hit are being called into question. Absent from the 10th season will be, for sure, Simon Cowell and Ellen DeGeneres, triggering a search for the next panel of

America Idol

judges. As producers tinker with a format that is a proven winner, the question remains as to just how big an impact

American Idol

can have on Fox and its parent company

News Corp.

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Slideshow: The Once and Future American Idol Judges

'American Idol' Judges: The Latest on the Search

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News Corp., the world's second-largest media conglomerate behind


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, has had little to say about one of its programming jewels. However, chairman and ceo Rupert Murdoch did make some mention of the speculation surrounding the judges during the company's conference call to discuss year-end financial results. "I can assure you that next year's


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


operation is can be gleaned by taking a look at financial results of the company that owns the proprietary rights to


around the world --


( CKXE).

CKX saw revenue from

American Idol

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


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


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.

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. As Fox aims to take the show in a new direction, rumors are circulating that big name celebrities such as Steven Tyler and Jessica Simpson could possibly replace Cowell and DeGeneres -- even Kara DioGuardi. Producers have yet to choose the judges for next season, but that hasn't stopped the speculation from stirring.

During the course of the summer, more than a dozen names have been added to the list of potentials, but none have been written in stone. Producers seem to be hesitant in striking a deal with anyone just yet.

Now it's time for you to make the judgment call. Who among the list of celebrities will most likely be a new addition to the American Idol judging panel?


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