The second season of blockbuster drama Empire will consist of 18 episodes, Fox chairmen Dana Walden and Gary Newman confirmed during the network’s press call this morning. It will be split in two parts, consistent with Fox’s new drama scheduling strategy the two laid out. It will include splitting seasons: Part 1 in the fall, ending with a cliffhanger, and Part 2 in the spring. The first season of Empire featured 12 episodes. At the time of the renewal, Fox and the series’ producers hinted that Season 2 would be longer, but likely not a full 22 episodes.

neyoIn other Empire news, Ne-Yo, who has spoken of his love for the show and desire to appear on it, has closed a deal to write music for Season 2, joining the series’ music producer Timbaland. There are no current plans for Ne-Yo to act on the series.

Newman and Walden fielded a slew of American Idol questions, with Walden hinting that former judges have shown “a lot of enthusiasm about coming back and paying tribute” to the show in its upcoming 15th and final season.

Newman said the decision to end Idol came after lengthy discussions with the series’ producers. “We came to the conclusion that it was time to bring the show to an end but in a way that felt special and celebratory, treating the show the way it deserves.”

The final season of Idol will follow the scheduling pattern of the current, trimmed-down Season 14, with the show starting off with  a two-night run on Wednesday and Thursday before switching to one weekly broadcast on Thursday.

Asked about the long-gestating second 24 event series, Newman said that it still is “very early in development.”