"We very much wanted her to return," Rice said during a Fox executive session at the fall TV previews Thursday. "We made an offer that we feel is very fair to Paula, it was a substantial raise, and Paula has decided not to return."
But is she already interviewing for a new job? During a So You Think You Can Dance panel the same day, executive producer Nigel Lythgoe announced that he will meet with Abdul this weekend in Las Vegas, where Dance's Season 6 will take place.
He said the pair will discuss "opportunities" for Abdul to work with So You Think You Can Dance, but did not specify in what capacity. He spoke highly of Abdul during the panel, but is there actually a place for her as a judge on the Dance panel? "Absolutely, there's no question about that," he said. "I don't know anyone who's had her experience."
As we reported yesterday, Lythgoe also invited Abdul to attend Dance's season-finale show Thursday, but she'll be unable, as she's presently on the East Coast shooting another TV appearance.
Lythgoe told the crowd that he spoke to Abdul yesterday morning, but didn't discuss what he called her "negotiations." Wait — negotiations? "I still don't know that she's going to leave Idol," Lythgoe said. "Until Idol goes on the air, there are still opportunities for renegotiations."
If you ask Fox though, it sure sounds like a done deal. "Our understanding is that the negotiations have concluded, and she has chosen not to come back," said Rice.
Fifty-seven percent of voters in a TVGuide.com poll say that Abdul's exit will not stop them from watching the show next season.
Rice emphasized that since these developments are recent, "we don't have any big announcements to make on what we're going to do." For now, he said, the plan is to have a rotating cast of guest judges to sit in on auditions, which begin Friday.
Between now and January, Rice said, they'll be looking for a more permanent solution. When asked if perhaps Idol would return to a three-judge panel, he said, "It's a possibility; I think the probability is that there will be four."
"We're very sad she's not coming back," Rice said. "She's been a great addition to the Idol family."