American Idol host Ryan Seacrest took to his KIIS radio show this morning to say he was "stunned" by Paula Abdul's decision to leave the show after eight seasons, adding that despite whispers to the contrary, Abdul's abrupt departure is not a publicity stunt. As Rock Daily reported this morning, Abdul announced that she was leaving AI via Twitter after failing to reach an agreement with the show's producers on a new contract.
"First of all, everyone that I passed today here has asked me, 'Is it true? Is it a publicity stunt?' As far as I know, it's real — at this point, she'd decided to leave," Seacrest, who recently signed a lucrative new deal with AI though he had a year left on his contract, said on his radio show. "So the news that Paula Abdul is leaving American Idol stunned me last night. She's a dear friend, I love her to death, and it's really sad that it's come to fruition. I'm just bummed and I think if you were to talk to Randy or Simon they'd say the same thing. It's just sad. It bums us out."
Randy Jackson spoke to Us Weekly about Abdul's departure, saying, "I am shocked. Paula is a dear friend and will be missed." Season Eight champ Kris Allen posted on his Twitter, "We love you. Glad I was able to be a part of your last season on the show. You showed us so much love."
Even though Abdul's manager David Sonenberg previously said it seemed unlikely that Abdul would return to the show — he called producers "rude and disrespectful" during the negotiations — after producers locked up a new deal with newest judge Kara DioGuardi, they shifted their focus to Abdul. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Abdul was looking for a new contract in the ballpark of $20 million, far less than the three-year, $45 million contract Seacrest signed and well below the reported $100 million a year Simon Cowell will seek when his contract expires after this season.
Producers countered with a 30 percent raise in the form of a multiyear, eight-figure deal, THR reports, but given that Abdul was getting roughly in the $2-4 million range on her previous contract, the terms represented far less than Seacrest and Cowell would be receiving, and far less than what Abdul had asked for.
"When everyone else was getting such big raises she was hurt," a source close to Abdul told People magazine. "She did want to go back to the show, of course. She's upset they didn't give her what she deserved." Now that Abdul is a free agent, she's already a hot commodity to networks looking to chip away at AI's ratings during this rare moment of weakness. So You Think You Can Dance had previously extended an invite to Abdul, and NBC's alternative programming executive Paul Telegdy said "Paula is an exceptional piece of talent. We have no specific plans for her but I read the breaking news and I wouldn't rule anything out."
• Paula Abdul Announces She's Leaving "American Idol"
• Paula Abdul's Return to "American Idol" Unlikely, Manager Says
• Abdul Twitters About "Idol" Status, DioGuardi Reportedly Returning