Robert F.X. Sillerman, CEO of entertainment company CKX, said an announcement is expected before the end of the month. That's no surprise: The show continues to generate sterling ratings and host Ryan Seacrest is already signed to be available through a 2012 season.
The agreement will be the third long-term extension with Fox since the show debuted in the summer of 2002, Sillerman said on an investor call.
"'Idol' has elevated its status to the point that it is quite a bit more important than any individual," Sillerman said, while acknowledging Cowell's "immense talent."
Ellen DeGeneres has begun taping shows. She will join the iconic Cowell as a fourth judge this season, then continue after he departs. Sillerman indicated that her energy and personality could propel the show forward.
CKX has rights to the "Idol" brand domestically and worldwide through control of 19 Entertainment. The "American Idol" business, which also includes recording contracts and tour revenues, earned $77 million for the first nine months of 2009.
Sillerman was asked whether CKX would consider selling the "Idol" brand to boost CKX's stock price, which has labored over the last year. He said that is not imminent, but did not dismiss the idea out of hand, saying if certain growth programs fail, "we'd have to consider doing something with the "Idol" assets or 19 (Entertainment)."
"We always operate a business as if we're going to own it forever," Sillerman said. "But our responsibility is to build shareholder value. So if something is more valuable to somebody else, we also have to be willing to part with it immediately."