American Idol 16: Behind the Scenes Drama Over Salary Negotiations

American Idol 16 Judges Luke Bryan Katy Perry Lionel Richie

For whatever it’s worth: Page Six is reporting that Katy Perry’s $25 million payday to sit on the judges panel at American Idol has created “huge drama” at ABC. and at the relaunched singing competition.

“ABC was originally going to spend no more than $50 million on talent. They had to expand their budget for Lionel,” one TV insider told Page Six. Reportedly Ryan Seacrest’s $15 million salary also “cut deeply” into the budget.

And who was responsible for such budgetary irresponsibility?

An ABC network source said the decision to pay Katy a pretty penny was made by the CEO/President Ben Sherwood, who personally signed off on the talent deals.

“Ben Sherwood blew the budget on Katy without thinking how that would impact other areas of the show budget. He gambled on her because of her appeal to a younger audience and huge social-media following. But Katy is effectively taking money from the other judges, who then had to be paid way less,” the source said.

The real trouble started when it came time to negotiate with other stars. Reportedly, Luke Bryan and Lionel Richie, who eventually signed on to the show, expected similar paydays.
“The negotiations with Luke and Lionel have been fraught and difficult because of [Katy’s paycheck]. They expected similar deals to Katy, but are, in fact, getting a hell of a lot less. In the end, ABC had to cough up a second round of money to sign the other judges.”

According to Page Six sources, American Idol initially offered Luke and Lionel “a measly $2.5 million” each to take the gig, but the talent demanded more, and refused to sign their deals, which postponed ABC’s talent announcement.

“As of last week, their contracts were not done,” said the source. “Sherwood authorized ABC to cough up more money. They’re both making about $7 million each now. This has become a very expensive show. If ‘Idol’ doesn’t work, it will blow up big time in Sherwood’s face. If it does work, he’s a genius,” the network source said.

An ABC rep claimed to Page Six that it’s “not true. Ben never had to get involved, and the deals were done within the original ABC talent budget for the show.”

For what it’s worth: TMZ and Variety reported delays in the announcement due to haggling over salaries, but reported even better paydays for the two artists–$13 million for Luke Bryan and close to $10 million for Lionel Richie. So…who knows.

About mj santilli 34244 Articles
Founder and editor of, home of the awesomest fan community on the net. I love cheesy singing shows of all kinds, whether reality or scripted. I adore American Idol, but also love The Voice, Glee, X Factor and more!