One place where Simon Cowell won’t be landing this season following the cancellation of the U.S. version of his The X Factor: American Idol. “No, he’s not going to be on the show at all,” Idol executive producer Per Blankens said today during a press event on the show’s new LA set. “I’ve heard he’s going to the UK to do X Factor,” he added. (He is.) The possibility of Cowell’s return after Fox last week axed X Factor was as one of several topics addressed in a sit-down with new Idol EPs Blankens, Jesse Ignjatovic and Evan Prager. The trio was joined by Idol’s new director Louis J. Horvitz, set designer Baz Halpin, and returning EP and FremantleMedia president of entertainment programming Trish Kinane. Also there was Fox’s David Hill, the Senior EVP of 21st Century Fox and former chairman and CEO of Fox Sports who was put in charge of the show and the now cancelled X-Factor in early June.
Season 13 of Idol launched to a premiere low January 15 as the show has been trying to get its once mighty mojo back with a reconfigured judging panel and new showrunners. The show moves into its live shows next week, going head-to-head with NBC’s Sochi Olympics. That isn’t a big worry, Blankens told me. “The ratings are doing OK considering and there is really nothing you can do about the Olympics — we knew when we did the schedule that we’d be facing it. Added Kinane: “The ratings have stabilized and we’re very happy with where they are against the Olympics. We’re up over where we were in 2010,” she said.
“What we hope with the live shows next week and going forward is that we can reconnect with the fans and get them to come back home,” Blankens said. “A lot of people love Idol but I think they didn’t approve of the way some things went last year.” Among the format tweaks: for the live shows beginning Wednesday viewers will be able to vote at the beginning of the show as opposed to the end as in past seasons.
Formerly the EP for the Swedish version of Idol, Blankens was named as EP last June to replace the dismissed Nigel Lythgoe and Ken Warwick. The overhaul of the veteran reality show after a rocky Season 12 continued with the addition of Ignjatovic and Prager soon afterward. The duo, who go by the moniker Den Of Thieves, were appointed by 19 Entertainment. Fox’s deal with FremantleMedia North America and 19 ensures that each of the two producing companies appoints an EP who oversees the series in tandem. Ignjatovic and Prager came from a rich live producing background including the MTV Video Music Awards, MTV Movie Awards, CMT Awards, Critics’ Choice Movie Awards and VH1 Divas. Horvitz was named Idol’s new director in late December of last year having helmed the Academy Awards, the Emmys, the Grammys and the Kennedy Center Honors.