Fox shakes up "Idol", makes Simon replacement priority

Mon May 17, 2010 1:59pm EDT
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By Jill Serjeant

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The search to replace Simon Cowell on "American Idol" will be the biggest issue for Fox television this summer as it tweaks the sagging TV singing contest next year to shorten the weekly results show.

Senior network executives told reporters on Monday they had listened to feedback from audiences, which have slipped by some 9 percent this year in a lackluster season that has seen challenges to "Idol"s long reign as the most-watched show on U.S. television.

"We have heard consistently from audiences that they would like more performances and tighter results shows," said Fox entertainment president Kevin Reilly.

Reilly said that in the 10th season starting 2011, the weekly elimination show will be cut by half to 30 minutes. The performance show will expand to 90 minutes from one hour in the final rounds. It was not clear at what stage the 90-minute show would kick in.

There was no news on a replacement for acerbic British judge Simon Cowell -- arguably "American Idol"s biggest star -- who leaves at the end of the current season in late May.

Fox entertainment chairman Peter Rice said nationwide contestant auditions would start in September -- a month later than usual -- giving "Idol" producers and the network some breathing space.

"We have to find a judge to replace Simon who provides both musical credibility and incredible entertainment value," Rice said. "There is no bigger question for the summer."

Audiences have slipped to an average 24.1 million this season, compared to 26.1 million in 2009 and 2006's high of about 30.8 million.   Continued...