Dawg! 'American Idol' original Randy Jackson leaving hit show

 Randy Jackson speaks during the season premiere screening of  'American Idol' in Westwood, California, on January 9.

Story highlights

  • Randy Jackson was one of three judges when the show debuted in 2002
  • With Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul out, he is the only one that remains
  • Jackson said that it was his decision to leave "American Idol"

Randy Jackson, the last original "American Idol" judge, announced Thursday that he's voting himself off the hit singing competition program after the current season ends.

"Yo! Yo! Yo! To put all of the speculation to the rest, after 12 years of judging on 'American Idol,' I have decided to leave after this season," Jackson said in a statement, released through his representative.

Along with Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul, the musician and producer was one of three judges when the Fox show debuted in 2002.

It soon became a national sensation, topping the Nielsen charts as the nation's most watched program for eight years running.

In 2011 -- more than a year after CNN and others reported on the program's ratings "slide" -- the "American Idol" Wednesday night show still topped the Nielsen yearly chart. No. 2? "American Idol's" Thursday program.

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The streak ended last year, when NBC's "Sunday Night Football" took Nielsen's top spot. Still, "American Idol" could take solace having already left other renowned TV shows -- "Seinfeld," "All in the Family" and "M*A*S*H" among them -- in its wake having been America's most popular program for the most consecutive seasons.

Jackson is the last original judge with Abdul's departure and then Cowell's several seasons ago. Ratings have decreased in recent years, as the show's producers have tried several new judges -- this season's include Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj -- to join Jackson.

Fox representative Jill Hudson says the network has no comment on Jackson's announcement.

In his statement Thursday, Jackson said he was "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," he added.

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