California: Ellen DeGeneres couldn`t be talked into staying with `American Idol`, a Fox executive said Monday, creating a second opening for change in the show`s 10th season.
Who will fill her judge`s chair and the one vacated by Simon Cowell were questions left unanswered by Peter Rice, chairman of entertainment for the Fox Networks Group.
"There are no deals signed on either side of the camera" with newcomers, Rice told a meeting of the Television Critics Association.
Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler have been reported as front-runners for the panel. Rice said some of the media speculation about the future of "American Idol" were accurate and that some were "wildly inaccurate."
He also declined to discuss the status of original judge Randy Jackson, reports that Kara DioGuardi might be in jeopardy after two years on the panel or whether former "American Idol" producer Nigel Lythgoe is in talks to return.
Rice said the goal was to have the judges in place by mid-September, when auditions that include the panel will be filmed. Would-be contestants at the auditions under way now are being screened by producers and others.
Judges with the chemistry to make for good entertainment and the ability to effectively assess talent are key, he said.
Cowell got a splashy farewell in the "American Idol" season finale in May, months after announcing his departure. He`s launching a new talent show, "The X Factor" on Fox next year.
Last week, DeGeneres said she`d decided to exit despite reportedly signing a five-year contract with "Idol" because she felt uncomfortable playing critic to the show`s contestants.
Rice told reporters he tried to persuade her it would be different in the future, but the talk show host and comedian was unmoved.
The revamp comes after a season during which ratings dipped, but was not enough to knock "American Idol" from the No. 1 spot. Besides halting the slide, Fox also wants to draw more younger, advertiser-favored viewers to the show, which has seen its audience age during nearly a decade on the air.