Ryan Seacrest has been making big bucks as host of American Idol -- a reported $15 million a year. But his contract is coming to an end this year, as an extension signed in 2009 is set to expire.
There's talk, according to a story from the Hollywood Reporter, that the 37-year-old Seacrest won't be renewed at his current high pay. That means the coming Idol season could be his last.
Writes the Hollywood Reporter: Will season 11 be Ryan Seacrest's last on 'American Idol?' The multihyphenate talent is entering the final stretch of a three-year contract extension that pays him $15 million a year to host the No. 1 singing competition, and sources tell THR that the negotiation to keep him will be heated.
The heat may have already begun, in fact. Speculation suggests that Seacrest's people have overplayed talk that he might replace Matt Lauer as host of the Today show on NBC in an effort to stimulate his contract talks regarding a return to American Idol. The story broke in December that NBCUniversal is pursuing Seacrest as a possible replacement for Lauer, if Lauer were to leave the program next year.
The talks were said to be preliminary and could fall apart at any time, according to the Wall Street Journal. There was also speculation that it was a negotiation tactic for Seacrest since his contract is nearing expiration.
Lauer joined Today as co-anchor in 1997. He's known for an annual segment for the program called Where in the World is Matt Lauer. He currently co-hosts the program with Ann Curry and previously hosted it with Katie Couric, who left to anchor the CBS Evening News for a period. There has been talk that Lauer will leave, perhaps to host his own talk program.
Seacrest, meanwhile, already hosts and produces a daily news show on NBCUniversal's E! network, and he has a contract with the network that runs through 2012, so it's not far-fetched that NBC would talk to him. It's also not far-fetched, however, that Seacrest could be let go by American Idol at such a high price tag.
He's hosted the show for all 11 seasons, but the Hollywood Reporter quoted an unnamed insider in its story that said Seacrest can be replaced for $2 to $3 million. The publication noted that Idol creator Simon Fuller, known to be Seacrest's biggest ally, is no longer with the show. It also cited the source as saying Idol producers found they could make it without Simon Cowell, bolstering thoughts that Seacrest could be replaced without disaster.