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Ellen DeGeneres joins 'American Idol' as 4th judge

LOS ANGELES, Sept 9 (Reuters) - Comedian Ellen DeGeneres, one of the top U.S. talk show hosts, was named on Wednesday as the new fourth judge on “American Idol,” replacing Paula Abdul who quit the most-watched American television show last month.

Fox television executives and the producers of the hit singing talent show had been searching for a permanent, new judge to sit in Abdul’s seat when the ninth season of the show returns to TV in January 2010.

“As the new judge, Ellen will offer her own unique perspective to the contestants throughout the competition,” Fox said in a statement.

DeGeneres, whose award-winning talk show “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” is in its seventh season, described herself as a longtime fan of the show.

“So getting this job is a dream come true, and think of all the money I’ll save from not having to text my vote,” she said in the statement.

"American Idol" has become an audience juggernaut for News Corp's NWSA.O Fox network, with an average 26.3 million viewers per episode, and has grown into an estimated $1 billion-plus brand that is aired in about 100 countries.

Abdul abruptly quit the show after seven years when she failed to secure a new contract with a big enough pay raise.

After HER departure, the show’s producers said they would bring in several pop stars and performers to fill guest judge spots on “Idol.”

Fox said this list included Katy Perry, former Spice Girl Victoria Beckham, Shania Twain, Mary J. Blige, Joe Jonas, Neil Patrick Harris, Avril Lavigne and Kristin Chenoweth.

DeGeneres will take her seat at the judge’s table after the audition rounds start.

“Idol” producers have renewed the contract of songwriter and record producer Kara DioGuardi, who was added to the judging panel this year to help boost sliding viewership.

The two other judges -- the often-acerbic Briton Simon Cowell and the laid-back Randy Jackson -- are still under contract and host Ryan Seacrest also will be returning. (Writing by Belinda Goldsmith; editing by Mohammad Zargham)