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

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.)

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Original 'American Idol' judges together
The Judges, Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson at FOX TV's 'American Idol', broadcast live from Television City in Los Angeles, Ca. Tuesday, July 16, 2002. Photo by Kevin Winter/ImageDirect/FOX*** Please Call For Usage ***
(Left to right) FOX's American Idol judges Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson pse peaceably at the FOX 2002 SummerTCA Tour at the Huntington Ritz Carlton Hotel in Pasadena, CA on Monday, July 22, 2002. Photo credit: Kevin Winter/ImageDirect
Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson at 'The Teen Choice Awards 2002' at the Universal Amphitheatre in Los Angeles, Ca. Sunday, August 4, 2002. Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images/FOX.
Ryan Seacrest, Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson, Justin Guarini, Paula Abdul, and Kelly Clarkson of American Idol backstage at the 2002 MTV Video Music Awards at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, August 29, 2002. Photo by Frank Micelotta/ImageDirect.
American Idol Judges Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson on stage at the 2002 MTV Video Music Awards at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, August 29, 2002. Photo by Scott Gries/ImageDirect.
Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul & Randy Jackson (Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage)
Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul & Simon Cowell during 'American Idol' Season 1 Finale - Results Show - Arrivals at Kodak Theater in Hollywood, California, United States. (Photo by SGranitz/WireImage)
THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO -- Episode 2447 -- Pictured: (l-r) American Idol judges Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul, and Simon Cowell during an interview with host Jay Leno on March 10, 2003 -- (Photo by: Paul Drinkwater/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell during 'American Idol' Season 2 Finale - Results Show at Universal Amphitheatre in Universial City, California, United States. (Photo by Ray Mickshaw/WireImage)
Ryan Seacrest, Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson, and Paula Abdul (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - JANUARY 16: 'American Idol' Judges (L-R) Randy Jackson, Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul during the FOX Television Critics Association Press Tour on January 16, 2004 at the Renaissance Hollywood Hotel in Hollywood, CA. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - MARCH 10: Idol judges Simon Cowell (L), Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson (R) arrive at Fox's celebration of Americn Idols Top 12 finalists at Pearl on March 10, 2004 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
Paula Abdul, Simon Cowell, and Randy Jackson during 'American Idol' Season 3 - Top 12 Finalists Party - Arrivals at Pearl in Los Angeles, California, United States. (Photo by SGranitz/WireImage)
Paula Abdul , Simon Cowell and Randy Jackson during The Lucky/Cargo Club - An Upfront Week Hospitality Suite - Day 3 at Le Parker Meridien in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/WireImage)
Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell (Photo by Ray Mickshaw/WireImage)
Randy Jackson, Ryan Seacrest, Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell **EXCLUSIVE** ***Exclusive*** (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)
Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul, Ryan Seacrest and Simon Cowell (Photo by Jean-Paul Aussenard/WireImage)
WESTWOOD, CA - APRIL 02: (L-R) Ryan Seacrest, Randy Jackson, Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul of American Idol accept their award for 'Favorite TV Show' onstage at the 18th Annual Nickelodeon Kids Choice Awards at the UCLA Pauley Pavillion on April 2nd, 2005 in Westwood, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson during Nickelodeon's 18th Annual Kids Choice Awards - Press Room at Pauley Pavillion in Los Angeles, California, United States. (Photo by SGranitz/WireImage)
HOLLYWOOD - APRIL 20: Television host Ryan Seacrest poses with American Idol judges (L-R) Paula Abdul, Simon Cowell and Randy Jackson, after receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on April 20, 2005 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)
Randy Jackson, Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul, judges, with songwriters Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff, and Ryan Seacrest, host (Photo by Ray Mickshaw/WireImage)
(EXCLUSIVE, Premium Rates Apply) Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell, judges (Photo by Ray Mickshaw/WireImage)
Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul, Ryan Seacrest and Simon Cowell (Photo by Michael Loccisano/FilmMagic)
LOS ANGELES - MAY 24: Idol Judges Randy Jackson (L), Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell (R) pose at the 'American Idol' final performance show at the Kodak Theatre on May 24, 2005 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, California (Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage)
THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO -- Episode 3077-- Pictured: (l-r) American Idol judges Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson, and Paula Abdul during an interview on January 16, 2006 -- (Photo by: Paul Drinkwater/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
(EXCLUSIVE, Premium Rates Apply) 'American Idol' Season 6 - Judges, Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell *EXCLUSIVE* (Photo by FOX/WireImage for Fox)
Randy Jackson, Ryan Seacrest, Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell (Photo by Denise Truscello/WireImage)
LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 01: American Idol television personalities (L-R) Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul, Ryan Seacrest and Simon Cowell attend the 24th Annual William S. Paley television festival at the Directors Guild on March 1, 2007 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Chad Buchanan/Getty Images)
Television personalities Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell arrive at the The 59th Primetime EMMY Awards TV Guide After Party at Les Deux on September 16, 2007 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Mark Sullivan/WireImage)
LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 06: ***EXCLUSIVE ACCESS*** American Idol judges Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell onstage during elimination from competition on American Idol Top 12 show, March 6, 2008 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by R Mickshaw/American Idol 2008/Getty Images for Fox)
HOLLYWOOD - APRIL 06: (L-R) Americian Idol personalities Ryan Seacrest, Paula Abdul, Randy Jackson, and Simon Cowell arrive at the taping of Idol Gives Back held at the Kodak Theatre on April 6, 2008 in Hollywood, California. Idol Gives Back will air April 9, 2008 (7:30-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. (Photo by Vince Bucci/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 11: ***EXCLUSIVE ACCESS*** (L-R) Judge Simon Cowell, judge Randy Jackson with socialite Kim Kardashian, sister Kourtney Kardashian, judge Paula Abdul and Kris Kardashian are seen in audience watching American Idol March 11, 2008 in Los Angeles, California. The top 12 contestants perform in front of the American Idol judges on Fox. (Photo by R Mickshaw/American Idol 2008/Getty Images for Fox)
HOLLYWOOD - APRIL 06: (L-R) American Idol judge Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul, and Simon Cowell onstage during the taping of Idol Gives Back held at the Kodak Theatre on April 6, 2008 in Hollywood, California. Idol Gives Back will air April 9, 2008 (7:30-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - AUGUST 26: (L-R) American Idol Judges Simon Cowell, Kara DioGuardi, Paula Abdul, and Randy Jackson attend auditions for 'American Idol' season 8 at Chelsea Piers on August 26, 2008 in New York City. (Photo by Gustavo Caballero/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 3: ***EXCLUSIVE ACCESS*** (L-R) Judges Randy Jackson, Kara DioGuardi, Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell speak on American Idol March 3, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. The third 12 of the top 36 perform in front of the American Idol judges on Fox. (Photo by M Becker/American Idol 2009/Getty Images for Fox)
HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 07: (L-R) Season 1 judges Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell speak onstage during FOX's 'American Idol' Finale For The Farewell Season at Dolby Theatre on April 7, 2016 in Hollywood, California. at Dolby Theatre on April 7, 2016 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
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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.

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