Sharon Osbourne-NBC spat comes amid talent-show upheavals


As if there were not already enough tumult on talent shows: Sharon Osbourne is openly threatening to leave “America’s Got Talent” over what now she claims is NBC “discrimination” of her son Jack.

The British-born talent judge and co-host of CBS’ “The Talk” is fuming because she claims the network booted 26-year-old Jack from the upcoming reality show “Stars Earn Stripes” after he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

“It’s discrimination, and it was badly handled,” Osbourne told the New York Post.

Osbourne’s fit comes as top-rated talent contests across the dial are seeing shakeups at the judges’ tables. “American Idol” is in the middle of a housecleaning after Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez exited the show. “The X Factor” hired Britney Spears and Demi Lovato to replace Paula Abdul and Nicole Scherzinger. Howard Stern is finishing his first season on “AGT” after Piers Morgan left to devote more time to his CNN show.


One reason for all the musical chairs: ratings. The landscape for talent shows has become increasingly competitive as more of them have cluttered the air. “Idol” saw ratings declines of double digits this season, and Stern did not deliver the ratings bounce for “AGT” that many analysts expected.

However, it’s unclear whether Osbourne is actually leaving - or just venting. Producers of “Stars Earn Stripes” were talking with her son in May about a role on the show, which features celebrities facing off in military-style feats. But producer David Hurwitz told the Post that Jack Osbourne, whose MS diagnosis was revealed earlier this year, was unable to handle the “rigors” of the competition and the deal collapsed (Hurwitz claimed Osbourne was never officially hired). The news apparently enraged Sharon Osbourne, who tweeted a cryptic message late last month saying she would not return to “AGT.”

The stakes are high for NBC, which has relied on “AGT” as its top-rated summer series. The network would not comment on Sharon Osbourne’s latest remarks, but an insider said her deal with “AGT” runs at least through summer 2013. It’s unclear whether and under what terms she could leave sooner than that. “AGT” is currently on a midsummer break until NBC finishes its coverage of the London Olympics later this week.

A spokeswoman for Osbourne did not return a phone call and email.

One expert said that an Osbourne departure would be “unfortunate.”

“‘AGT’ has been one of TV’s most popular shows over the summer,” said Brad Adgate, an analyst for ad firm Horizon Media, “and as a judge for the past six seasons, longer than anyone else, she played a part in the program’s success.”


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-- Scott Collins

Twitter: @scottcollinsLAT