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Jennifer Lopez returns as 'American Idol' judge

Singer and actress Jennifer Lopez arrives at the ceremony for the unveiling of her star on the Walk of Fame in Hollywood, California June 20
Singer and actress Jennifer Lopez arrives at the ceremony for the unveiling of her star on the Walk of Fame in Hollywood, California June 20

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Pop singer Jennifer Lopez will be returning to "American Idol," joining new judge Grammy- and Emmy-award-winning singer Harry Connick Jr. and veteran Keith Urban on the popular TV singing competition, Fox Broadcasting said on Tuesday.

Randy Jackson, who has been on the judging panel since the show started in 2002 and announced he would be leaving earlier this year, will return as an in-house mentor for the show's 13th season in January.

"American Idol has always been about discovering the next singing superstar, and next season our judging panel will deliver a most impressive combination of talent, wisdom and personality to do just that," Kevin Reilly, Fox Broadcasting's chairman of entertainment, said in a statement announcing the judging panel.

Lopez, 44, returns after a season away. The singer and actress, who appeared in "The Back-up Plan" and "Parker," and whose hits include "On the Floor," will add star power to the singing competition, once the most-watched television show, with 30 million viewers during its heyday six or seven years ago.

Forbes.com calculated that "Idol" was the most profitable show on TV in 2011, generating some $6.64 million in ad revenue for every half hour it aired.

When soul singer Candice Glover won "American Idol" in May and became the first woman to take the title since 2007 the finale drew 14.2 million viewers, the first time it failed to reach 20 million.

The season slump in audience numbers prompted an overhaul of the highly paid judging panel. Forbes.com estimated last season's judges and host Ryan Seacrest were paid a combined $54 million. Former judges Mariah Carey and rapper Nicki Minaj left after the end of the last season. Urban is the only judge who remained.

Connick will be a new face on the show. The 45-year-old singer and New Orleans native has released 29 albums and appeared on stage, in films and on television, including a recurring role on "Will & Grace."

The show's longtime producer, Nigel Lythgoe, was let go in June and replaced by Swedish producer Per Blankens, who was most recently the producer of Sweden's version of the show.

Fox is a unit of News Corp.

(Reporting by Patricia Reaney; Editing by Prudence Crowther)

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