Through all the changes in the judges’ lineup over the years, and even after two of the original threesome left, Randy Jackson has continued to stick with the show year after year. But that’s about to change, as “the dawg” has announced that he will be leaving American Idol once season 12 comes to an end.

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In a statement to E! News, Randy said, “Yo! Yo! Yo! To put all of the speculation to the rest, after 12 years of judging on American Idol I have decided it is time to leave after this season. I am very proud of how we forever changed television and the music industry. It’s been a life changing opportunity but I am looking forward to focusing on my company Dream Merchant 21 and other business ventures.” These other ventures, according to E!, include writing a book and working on film and TV development deals, along with his branding business that includes guitars, eyewear and watches.

As recently as Wednesday, The Wrap reported that all four judges will be getting the ax, with an insider saying, “All four are gone. They feel they’ve lost their core audience and they want it back.” Maybe Randy announcing his departure is his way of bowing out on his own terms before he’s forced out. (Other judges have done the same thing in previous years.)

And since shelling out tens of millions of dollars on big female celebrities obviously isn’t working to boost ratings, that idea has been thrown out: “No more big checks for divas.”

A lot of people online this year have suggested FOX cancel the show. But according to Kantar Media, “Idol is still a huge revenue generator for FOX, bringing in $836.5 million in ad revenue last year.”

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Randy’s announcement comes just hours before the Top 3 results show. It’ll be interesting to see if anything is mentioned. Since he’s the only original judge left, there’s no doubt they’ll have a video package during the finale as a farewell tribute to him, similar to what they did when Simon left.

Nothing has been made official yet about Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj or Keith Urban, despite the report above that everyone is being replaced. If any of them announce their departures before the season ends, it might be an awkward final week of season 12.

What do you think of this news? Are you surprised he’s leaving, or were you wanting him to stay? And now that we now of at least one vacancy on the panel, who should replace him?

American Idol airs Wednesdays and Thursdays at 8pm on FOX.

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(Image courtesy of FOX)

Jeff Dodge

Staff Writer, BuddyTV

Jeff Dodge, a graduate of Western Washington University, has been a TV news editor for many years and has had the chance to interview multiple reality show stars, including Randy Jackson, Nick Cannon, Heidi Klum, Mel B and John Cena.