American Idol continues to assemble its team for the upcoming 13th season as part of a major overhaul. Unscripted/event producing team Jesse Ignjatovic and Evan Prager, who go by Den Of Thieves, are joining Idol as executive producers, joining fellow new exec producer Per Blankens. Under Fox’s agreement with FremantleMedia North America and 19 Entertainment, each of the two producing companies appoints an executive producer who oversee the series in tandem. Their most recent choices were longtime EPs Nigel Lythgoe (19 Entertainment) and Ken Warwick (FMNA), who both recently exited the show. Blankens, brought in by FMNA, comes from the Swedish version of Idol, which he executive produced for five seasons. Meanwhile, Ignjatovic and Prager, appointed by 19 Entertainment, bring extensive experience in producing live events having done the MTV Video Music Awards, MTV Movie Awards, CMT Awards, Critics’ Choice Movie Awards and VH1 Divas. “To take an iconic show like American Idol to the next level, we wanted executive producers who really had a deep affection and respect for American pop culture,” said Marc Graboff, president of 19 Entertainment parent CORE Media. “Jesse and Evan have an enormous amount of expertise in this arena and can do some very special things.”I hear Blankens, Ignjatovic and Prager will oversee the series together, with Blankens considered first among equals. Being very familiar with Idol, he is expected to focus on the format and overall production from the auditions to the finale, while, given their background, Ignjatovic and Prager’s main focus is expected to be on the live shows where significant changes are likely. With the succession plan firmed up on the network side — as David Hill stepped in to replace Mike Darnell in overseeing Idol — and on the executive producer/showrunner level, attention is expected to shift to the judging panel, vacated by Mariah Carey, Randy Jackson and Nicki Minaj. I hear a deal with Idol alumna Jennifer Hudson, negotiated by Darnell, includes a contingency, waiting for the new team on the show to weigh in. And I also hear the network and the producers plan to settle on a judging panel after getting the prospective judges together to make sure they have chemistry, breaking from the recent practice of straight offers, with judges sometimes meeting for the first time on the first day of auditions.
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