Mariah Carey will join American Idol as a judge next season, Fox announced, bringing her star power to the show that remains a ratings leader but has seen its viewership and pop culture status diminish.
"I am so excited to be joining Idol," said Mariah, addressing the Television Critics Association via Fox entertainment chief Kevin Reilly's mobile phone, which he put on speaker-phone for the hotel ballroom meeting.
She could not be on hand with the group because "this kind of all just happened really quickly", Mariah said in her brief remarks. "I can't wait to get started in the fall (autumn) ... and I will see you in January."
The show, which saw judges Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez exit at the end of last season, will be back on the air for season 12 in January.
Mariah with her husband, Nick Cannon, host of his America's Got Talent on NBC.
Reilly called Mariah "the biggest recording artist that any of these (talent) shows has ever had", adding that she was the "artist that many of these contestants have tried to emulate, have tried some of the songs, have tried to hit the notes".
Playing the drama up, Reilly placed a call to Mariah and put her on speaker. "Hi Mariah. How are you? It's Kevin," he said. "We do have the deal, don't we?" Mariah replied: "Yes!"
Reilly said he was "thrilled" to confirm reports that the singer was being courted by Fox and said the deal was freshly signed within the last few hours. The Grammy-winning pop star is receiving just shy of 18 million dollars (£11.6 million) a year for a one-year contract with a renewal option, according to a person familiar with the negotiations.
The exit of Tyler and J-Lo left original judge Randy Jackson and started a guessing game about potential replacements, with Mariah at the top of the list.
As one of music's best-selling singers, she could provide the clout American Idol needs to compete in an increasingly crowded talent show field. Besides Fox sibling The X Factor, which recently added Britney Spears and Demi Lovato as judges, there's NBC's The Voice, which boasts Christina Aguilera among its big names.
Simon Cowell, the former American Idol judge who adapted his UK hit The X Factor for Fox, was asked about Mariah's new gig at a critics' session. "I'm happy for her, actually. I like Mariah. I think she's going to find it difficult to say no. You've got to say no to people and she's sweet," he said, then quickly backtracked, adding, "No, I think she'll be great." Simon had reason to be diplomatic: Mariah's husband, Nick Cannon, is host of his America's Got Talent on NBC.