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Did "Idol" Producers Seek Jennifer Lopez to Replace Mariah Carey?

Kevin Winter/Getty Images(LOS ANGELES) -- With ratings in a sharp decline, American Idol producers and Fox executives reportedly considered shaking up the current judges’ panel by replacing Mariah Carey with former Idol judge Jennifer Lopez.

The Hollywood Reporter quotes knowledgeable sources as saying the plan was dropped after Carey responded by threatening a lawsuit, but the show is still negotiating with Lopez about making an appearance on this season’s finale.

The sources say Fox executive Mike Darnell and Fremantle NorthAmerica exec Cecile Frot-Coutaz have been worried about the show’s ratings plunge and thought a mid-season shake-up of the judges’ panel would help reverse the trend. 

Observers note that despite her eight-figure salary, Carey seems disengaged at times on the show and has never generated the fan following that Lopez enjoyed.

The trade paper says Idol producers signed Carey and Nicki Minaj to the show because they thought their different personalities would clash and that would “make for good TV if they were in conflict.”

The report says internal Fox research has found that Minaj is not popular with a large segment of the Idol audience.

“The core viewer is a Midwestern, Southern, older woman who is threatened by Nicki’s aggressiveness,” according to one Hollywood Reporter source.

A mid-season judge replacement plan may have been halted, but insiders says a search is already underway to replace Carey, most likely Minaj, possibly newcomer Keith Urban and even Idol veteran Randy Jackson for next season.

A source who has been approached as a possible judge replacement tells the trade paper that Idol producers are looking for someone less well-known to join the show, possibly a music professional with strong credentials.

This season’s premiere of American Idol in January attracted a respectable 17.9 million total viewers, but the numbers have dropped nearly every week since.  In contrast, NBC’s The Voice, with new judges Shakira and Usher, has seen its audience totals climb. 

Idol made headlines last week when preliminary numbers showed its total viewers for a results show was beaten by a rerun of CBS' The Big Bang Theory.

Fox and Idol producers declined to comment on the report.

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