| LOS ANGELES
LOS ANGELES Pop singers Katy Perry, former Spice Girl Victoria Beckham, and other female artists will be guest judges on "American Idol" this upcoming season to help replace departing Paula Abdul, Fox television executives said on Thursday.
But Fox and the producers of the most-watched American television show said they are searching for a permanent, fourth judge to sit in Abdul's seat when the ninth season of the show returns to TV in early 2010.
Fox appeared to close the door on any further talks with Abdul, who abruptly announced in a Tweet this week that she was quitting after seven years when she failed to secure a new contract with a big enough pay raise.
"We very much wanted her to return," said Peter Rice, chairman of entertainment at Fox, "We made an offer that we feel was very fair. It was a substantial raise. It was not our choice."
Asked whether there was still a chance that the popular but volatile Abdul might still find a way back to the show, Rice told reporters gathered at an event showcasing new programs: "Our understanding is that we have concluded the negotiations and Paula has announced she is not coming back."
However former Idol executive producer Nigel Lythgoe said he held out some hope for a comeback.
"I still don't know that she is going to leave 'Idol'. Until 'Idol' goes on the air there are always opportunities for renegotiations," Lythgoe told reporters separately. He said he may meet Abdul this weekend to talk about opportunities with his own TV contest show on Fox "So You Think You Can Dance."
"I've been trying to get her since season one (of "So You Think You Can Dance)", Lythgoe said.
PERRY, POSH TO JUDGE AUDITIONS
Auditions for the ninth season of "American Idol" begin on Aug 9 and Rice said that producers were talking to several female pop stars and performers to fill guest judge spots.
He said Perry, who enjoyed a massive global hit with "I Kissed a Girl", and Beckham, also known as Posh Spice, had already agreed to take part in the audition rounds. None of the guests are expected to take on the judging role permanently.
"Between now and January (when the show airs) we will come up with a permanent solution on what we will do ... Obviously there is going to be a different dynamic (and) there is something exciting about that," Rice said.
"Idol" producers renewed the contract this week of songwriter Kara DioGuardi, who was added to the judging panel this season. Simon Cowell and Randy Jackson are still under contract and host Ryan Seacrest also will be returning.
Rice, however, denied reports that Seacrest had won a new deal that would pay him some $15 million a year just to stay on "American Idol". He said that contract was with the show's joint producers CKX for opportunities beyond the TV singing competition.
Fox said the success of "American Idol" was ultimately about the contestants who go on to be bonafide pop stars rather than the judges, but they acknowledged that finding the right person to replace Abdul was important.
"What we need to find is someone who has great chemistry. It really is a casting job. Our job in next four or five months is to consider what makes this the most fun, the most entertaining show," Rice said.
(Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)