LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Producer Nigel Lythgoe is returning to hit television singing contest "American Idol," a show he helped create, as it revamps its lineup of judges and its format to liven up the program in the face of slipping viewership.
Lythgoe, a prolific producer who also is a judge on the Fox network's "So You Think You Can Dance," has been named an executive producer of "American Idol" for its 10th season, starting in January 2011, Fox said in a statement on Thursday.
The producer, whose return to the show had been widely rumored for weeks, helped launch televised singing contest "Pop Idol" in the U.K. with long-time friend Simon Fuller. The pair brought the popular format to the United States with "American Idol," which airs on Fox.
Lythgoe left "American Idol" after seven seasons, and in the past four the show has seen its viewership slide.
"Working as executive producer on 'American Idol' for its first seven years not only was an inspirational journey into the heart of American pop culture, it opened my eyes to the untapped potential of the incredibly dynamic young people in this world," Lythgoe said in a statement.
The naming of Lythgoe as executive producer follows the recent departure of judges Simon Cowell and Ellen DeGeneres. Numerous media reports have speculated that celebrities such as singer/actress Jennifer Lopez and rocker Steven Tyler might join the show on the judges panel.
Yet, earlier this week, executives at the network said no deals had been signed with any new judges.
A couple of new changes have already been made. The minimum age for contestants has been lowered to 15 years-old, and the weekly results program has been cut by half to 30 minutes.
"American Idol" is produced by 19 Entertainment, a unit of CKX Inc and by FremantleMedia, a unit of Bertlesmann AG-controlled broadcaster RTL Group. Fox is a unit of News Corp.
Editing by Carolina Madrid