Though Idol is in its ninth season, Ryan says he still remembers the early days. "When we started, we were wondering, 'Would we get the second season pickup?'" he says. "We got a phone call before the end of the season from the network saying: 'We think this is going to work. We're going to do it one more time.'"

Ryan says he feels fortunate to be part of the Idol phenomenon. "It's changed television and music," he says. "Look at the success of the Idols and who's come out of it. You've got Grammy® winners and Oscar® winners."

So does Ryan have a favorite Idol winner? "That's like picking kids or puppies," he says. "I really loved seeing Carrie Underwood's success. ... She was someone who had never been on an airplane before she came to Hollywood, and now look at the success."


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