'American Idol' Hires New Executive Producer


After releasing longtime producers Nigel Lythgoe and Ken Warwick, American Idol has hired a new executive producer for its upcoming thirteenth season.

The FOX singing show has nabbed Sweden native Per Blankens to resurrect the show from its lowest average ratings since the show's first season in 2002 and lowest finale viewership in its history.

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The Swede produced the Swedish version of Idol from 2007 to 2011.

"Per is a creative and experienced executive who has been the showrunner on the blockbuster Swedish 'Idol' for more than five seasons," Trish Kinane, Idol executive producer for FremantleMedia North America, said of Blankens. "He is extremely passionate about 'Idol' and I'm very excited about his ideas and vision for keeping 'Idol' creatively vibrant."

Lythgoe and Warwick were confirmed to have been axed from the show on Sunday. Lythgoe, who also produces his talent-show creation So You Think You Can Dance, released an extensive statement in the wake of his firing:

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"It has been a tremendous honor to launch and build 'American Idol' over the course of a decade and to see it recognized with 51 nominations and six Emmy Awards including the Academy's highest honor, the Governors Award. To be a part of the spin-off program, 'Idol Gives Back' was incredible. As well as raising nearly $200 million for various charities it was a personal life-changing experience for me.

"It also provided me with the opportunity to produce and direct a magical sequence with Celine Dion together with Elvis Presley. This continues to be one of the highlights of my entire career. Over the years, I believe we have changed the face of American television forever and eventually created a true global phenomenon. It has been inspiring to find and launch the careers of artists ranging from Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Phillip Phillips and many more, spanning all musical styles and genres.

"I am truly saddened to be leaving a great team of friends and colleagues. However, at the end of the day, the most important thing is to maintain this incredible platform for America's young talent. This will only happen with the success of the program. If the executives that are now in charge of 'American Idol' believe that the ratings will improve with my departure, I have no complaints.

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"It has been a great ride and I've loved every moment of it. After dedicating over 12 years to 'Idol,' I look forward to continuing work on my beloved 'So You Think You Can Dance,' which is going strong in its 10th season. In addition, this will allow me
more time to devote to Nigel Lythgoe Productions and our exciting new partnership with Shine America."

Lythgoe's and Warwick's firings and Blankens' subsequent hiring come two weeks after Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey confirmed they would not be returning to the show, leaving only Keith Urban with the potential to return to the judges' table. Original judge Randy Jackson announced that Season 12 would be his last shortly before the show's finale.

Although it has not officially been confirmed, host Ryan Seacrest is expected to return to the show for Season 13, which will air in January 2014.