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Mr. Seacrest, the other original cast member, will provide a stable center. He signed a two-year contract with “American Idol” producers in the spring to continue as host.

The Fox series, which began with Mr. Jackson, Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul as judges, has made changes on the panel over the years. Ellen DeGeneres joined one season, and songwriter Kara DioGuardi was added as a fourth judge to work with Mr. Jackson, Mr. Cowell and Miss Abdul.

The addition of Mr. Tyler and Miss Lopez two years ago added fresh star power, and the pair and Mr. Jackson clicked on camera.

But “American Idol” ended up in a vulnerable position, coming off a May finale that drew 21.5 million viewers as Phillip Phillips was crowned the newest winner.

It was a record low finish and followed a pattern of declining viewership for the once inevitably top-rated series, not to mention a pattern of “white guys with guitars,” as fans describe the show’s recent string of similar winners.

The series ended the 2011-12 season as No. 2 with an average 20 million viewers for the Wednesday performance episodes, just edging third-place “CSI” (19.7 million) on CBS and ABC’s top-rated “Sunday Night Football” (20.7 million).

“Idol” still rules among the most-watched talent shows, topping ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars” and NBC’s “The Voice.” But it is fighting to keep advertiser-favored young viewers, with “The Voice” nearly equaling its audience among adults 18 to 49.

Fox, which from the start has protected “Idol” by programming it just once a year, has diluted its uniqueness with a family competitor, Mr. Cowell’s “The X Factor,” which debuted last fall. After a disappointing start, the show underwent its own judges’ shakeup to add Demi Lovato and Britney Spears.

“American Idol” hasn’t been helped by a run of champions who have failed to achieve the career sizzle of Miss Hudson, Carrie Underwood or Kelly Clarkson.

The winner, however, ultimately is up to the audience. The judges are in the network’s and producers’ control, and their next moves are critical ones.

AP Television Writer David Bauder and AP Music Editor Nekesa Mumbi Moody in New York contributed to this report.