Is JLo willing to make a long-term commitment?
In a chat with reporters during the Television Critics Assn. press tour last week, Fox Entertainment President Kevin Reilly mostly steered clear of specifics about the network's progress in signing Jennifer Lopez to a new contract to stay on "American Idol."
However, he did note that the talks have a "lot of moving parts" and that "it's now a complex deal." He elaborated a little, observing that one of the challenges is determining the value the show brings to the talent and vice versa.
Just a year ago, replacing the departing Simon Cowell with Lopez and Aerosmith singer Steven Tyler on "American Idol" was seen as a gamble, and most industry experts thought ratings would decline. Instead, the show turned in a strong year. Lopez got a boost too after some box office disappointments. Now she's on the cover of Vanity Fair and has two movies in the works.
Although Tyler's deal with "American Idol" runs for two more seasons, Lopez signed only a one-year agreement. Fox and production company Fremantle Media would like to lock her in for at least two more years as well.
It was probably to Lopez's advantage that she signed only a one-year deal estimated to be worth about $12 million. The show did better than expected, and now she has leverage to ask for a big raise, which she's doing, and that's a scenario she may want to repeat next year.
Time has become an element in the Lopez talks as auditions for the next "American Idol" are scheduled to start in the next several weeks. The longer the talks drag on, the more Lopez could be in a position to drive a short-term deal.
Besides money and length of the deal, there are also scheduling issues that are complicating negotiations. Lopez also has to find time to make the two movies, including the ensemble comedy "What to Expect When You Are Expecting."
A Fox spokesperson declined to comment on the Lopez talks, and a spokesperson for her did not return a call seeking comment.
-- Joe Flint
Photo: Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez. Credit: Chris Pizzello / Associated Press.