'American Idol' Signs Deal with Universal, Parts with Sony

Carrie Underwood

"American Idol" producer 19 Entertainment and creator Simon Fuller moved on from its nine-year marketing and distribution deal with Sony Music Entertainment Tuesday (Aug. 3), severing a relationship that produced chart-topping successes with Carrie Underwood and Kelly Clarkson but has failed in recent years to produce an equivalent hitmaker.

Starting with "Idol's" tenth season in January 2011, the development, distribution and marketing of "Idol" contestants will be handelled by Universal Music Group's Interscope Geffen A&M.

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The new partnership could provide a puzzle piece in the ongoing saga as to who will fill "Idol's" judges table next season; Interscope Geffen A&M Chairman Jimmy Iovine has long been floated as a contender for the job. He previously dabbled in television during the dot com heyday, launching music discovery program "Farmclub.com" on USA Network. Also recently pegged as potential new judges are Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez.

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In a statement, Lucian Grainge, co-CEO of UMG said; "We like delivering hits and new artists," stated Mr. Grainge. "UMG and 'American Idol' is the right combination at the right time. Pairing the renowned expertise of Simon [Fuller] and Jimmy in developing and marketing musical talent creates a truly winning combination that will allow 'Idol's' artists to realize their fullest potential."

Sony issued its own statement: "After enjoying a successful relationship, Sony Music Entertainment wishes Simon Fuller and 19 Entertainment well in this transitional period for the 'American Idol' franchise. We look forward to continuing our relationships with the many artists on the Sony Music roster who have graduated from the 'American Idol' system, including Kelly Clarkson, Daughtry, Carrie Underwood, Fantasia, David Cook, Adam Lambert, Kellie Pickler, Jordin Sparks and David Archuleta among others and we are excited for the upcoming albums later this fall from Season 9's winner and runner-up Lee DeWyze and Crystal Bowersox."

UMG takes on the role as music industry partner to the show at a tenuous time: last year was the lowest-rated season since "Idol" launched on Fox in 2002 and the show's consistent brash personality, judge Simon Cowell, is leaving to develop a version of his U.K. hit "The X-Factor" for Fox in 2011.