“I really was dreading this phone call with you,” she told him. “I honestly feel like the time has come that I have to get back to doing the other things that I do that I’ve put kind of on hold because I love 'Idol' so much.”
That means the show’s judging panel is down to one, Randy Jackson, and there are reports that he may take a different role on the program moving forward.
It’s an adolescent identity crisis for “American Idol,” which has been TV’s most popular program for nearly a decade. Ratings for the Fox show have declined as TV’s talent-show field gets more competitive.
When the show returns for its 12th season in January, it will have to be a re-engineered version of the once-powerhouse series that turned hopefuls such as Jennifer Hudson into stars and gave network rivals fits.
Mr. Tyler started the exodus with his announcement Thursday that he was putting rock ‘n’ roll ahead of the show, which he said had been “over-the-top fun.”
“I strayed from my first love, Aerosmith, and I’m back — but instead of begging on my hands and knees, I got two fists in the air, and I’m kicking the door open with my band,” Mr. Tyler said in a statement. Aerosmith is on a nationwide tour with Mr. Tyler and has an album due out in the fall.
In a phone interview Thursday with the Associated Press as the news about Mr. Tyler broke, Miss Lopez said she was saddened to hear that he was leaving and added that his departure would play a role in her decision.
“I can’t even imagine anyone else there right now because I’ve just spent two years sitting next to him,” she said. “I love Steven, and we became close during that time. We were a great support for each other, on an adventure that neither one of us knew what it was going to be. So it’s hard to hear that he won’t be doing it.”
Mr. Jackson and his “Dawg!” exclamations have been stalwart parts of “Idol.” But the show’s multiyear contracts, such as the one Mr. Jackson signed, typically include an escape clause that the network can choose to exercise or not.
A call to Mr. Jackson’s representative was not returned. Fox declined to make an executive available to discuss the show and its judges, but one expressed measured regret in a statement on Mr. Tyler’s decision in a statement.
“We are very sad that Steven has chosen to focus more on his music, but we always knew when we hired a rock ‘n’ roll legend, he would go back to his music,” said Mike Darnell, the network’s president of alternative entertainment.
Speculation about potential new panelists has focused on Mariah Carey, with former “Idol” runner-up Adam Lambert getting a shout-out from his fans. Much is at stake for the show and for its judges: Miss Lopez’s contract reportedly was worth $12 million, and the stint proved a career-booster for her.