'American Idol' drama: Why filming may be delayed as producers scramble to fill judges' panel

Jennifer Kline, AOL.com

Seacrest may be out for longer than he anticipated.

"American Idol" hits its final tour bus audition stop on Thursday, which means that in just a few weeks, auditions with the actual judges are slated to film. There's just one problem: Producers have only locked down one judge.

Katy Perry is the only star officially signed on to judge the reality competition, and the show relies heavily on its format of three to four panel judges offering critique.

For months, rumors have swirled that Perry complicated matters by very publicly chatting about her sky-high "Idol" salary of $25 million. The astronomical figure has not only reportedly made it difficult to secure other celebrities for the panel, but it also derailed discussions about bringing Ryan Seacrest back as a host. (He ultimately signed on, also for a huge amount of money.)

Producers really want country star Luke Bryan on board, TMZ reports, but he wants a bigger paycheck. Since the show has a shrinking budget, celebrities have been offered other perks instead of cash, like Disney World theme park partnerships, but nothing's panned out.

If the show is forced to delay filming, the schedule will run into major conflict with Perry's upcoming "WItness" tour, which kicks off on Sept. 19. Producers carefully organized "Idol" tapings around the tour, which will take Perry all over North America up until February 2018.

Perry then has a break in her tour schedule, allowing for live "Idol" tapings, before she returns to the stage in May for dozens of international tour stops.