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'Idol' judges Lopez, Urban and Connick to return for next season

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The high-profile judges of Fox's reality singing competition "American Idol," Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban and Harry Connick Jr., will all return for the show's 14th season along with host Ryan Seacrest, the network said on Monday.

Pop singer Lopez will take the seat for the fourth time while country music star Urban will reprise his for the third, and jazz crooner Connick will enter his second season on the judges panel.

Seacrest has hosted the show since its premiere in 2002, and has become one of the highest-profile U.S. television hosts. The new season of "Idol" will begin the audition process in New Orleans on Wednesday and is scheduled to premiere early 2015.

"American Idol" was once a ratings juggernaut for Twenty-First Century Fox Inc's Fox Broadcasting, drawing more than 30 million viewers at its peak and propelling the careers of its talent, such as winner Kelly Clarkson and finalist Jennifer Hudson, and its high-profile judges.

But the show's most recent season concluded last month with 10.6 million viewers, the lowest number in its 13-year history. "Idol" will be scaled back for its next season from about 50 hours to 37 hours.

(Reporting by Piya Sinha-Roy; Editing by Eric Walsh)

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