"American Idol" is all but certainly coming back on the air in March 2018, and even though it looks like Ryan Seacrest is out of the picture as host ... we've learned he's not out of the picture ... at all.
TMZ broke the story ... ABC wants the show and is far along in the negotiations with Fremantle, which produces the show. We're told ABC wants to announce it at the Upfronts a week from next.
As for Ryan ... as we reported, ABC inquired last week if the show could be shot in NYC, where he now has a full-time gig with Kelly Ripa. ABC wanted it NYC-based so Ryan could host, but Fremantle fired back that the show had to be shot in L.A.
So, it's impossible for Ryan to do the 'A.I.', right? Not so fast.
We're told Fremantle has always wanted Ryan as the host of the reboot, and it has been pushing ABC to run the show on Sunday nights. Here's how it could work for the 10 weeks 'A.I.' is live.
-- THURSDAYS Ryan does 'Live' with Kelly, and pre-tapes Friday's show. Kelly's been doing a Friday pre-tape for a long time, so that's not a change. Ryan jumps on a private jet early Thursday afternoon for L.A. and has Friday to prep for 'Idol.'
-- SUNDAYS Ryan does 'Idol' live at 8 PM ET, which is 5 PM PT. He jumps on his jet at 7 PM, sleeps for 4 hours and lands in NYC at around 3 AM ET.
-- MONDAYS Ryan does 'Live' at 9 AM ET, jumps in a car by 10:15 for the airport and jumps on his jet before noon for a second trip to L.A. He lands between 2:30 and 3 PM, goes to ABC and shoots the results show at 5 PM. He books it to the airport and is back in the air by 7 PM.
-- TUESDAYS Ryan sleeps on the plane for 4 hours and lands in NYC at around 3 AM ET. He's back on the 'Live' set for a 9 AM show.
His radio show is unaffected.
We're told ABC has not reached out to Ryan, but we know both the network and Fremantle think he's the franchise. There is a sticking point ... sources familiar with the negotiations tell us ABC wants the show on Monday nights opposite "The Voice," which would make this plan impossible for Seacrest, but if ABC capitulates and Fremantle wins the Sunday battle, Ryan is doable.