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Scott D. Pierce
Scott D. Pierce writes about television for the Salt Lake Tribune. Vice president of the Television Critics Associationn, he's covered TV in Utah since 1990.

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Rihanna performs onstage at the "American Idol" finale on Wednesday, May 23, 2012 in Los Angeles. (Photo by John Shearer/Invision/AP)
Struggling "American Idol" brings in a new show runner — from Sweden

To the surprise of absolutely no one, Nigel Lythgoe has been ousted as the show runner/executive producer of "American Idol."

What with the ratings dive the show has taken in the past couple of years, it was bound to happen.

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It is as least a big surprising that Fox and FreemantleMedia North America, which produces the show, has gone to Sweden to find a replacement.

Lythgoe is clearly a scapegoat here. He was saddled with terrible judges Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj and Randy Jackson. "Idol" is no longer as distinctive, what with the advent of "The Voice" and "X Factor." And shows tend to fade as they age.

Lythgoe, however, was unable reverse or even slow the decline.

(He remains executive producer and a judge of "So You Think You Can Dance.")

His replacement, Per Blankens, was the executive producer of the Swedish version of "Idol."

There's no word on who the new judges will be. It's highly unlikely we'll know who they are before "American Idol" auditions come to the EnergySolutions Arena on July 10-11.

Here's Fox's release on the change:

Burbank, CA, June 10, 2013 - Per Blankens, internationally renowned and award-winning television producer, has been named executive producer of AMERICAN IDOL for the series upcoming 13th season premiering January 2014 on FOX.

Most recently, Blankens served as the executive producer on "Idol," the immensely successful and top-rated Swedish version of the hit singing competition franchise.

"Per is a creative and experienced executive who has been the show runner on the blockbuster Swedish Idol for more than 5 seasons," said Trish Kinane, AMERICAN IDOL executive producer for FremantleMedia North America. "He is extremely passionate about Idol and I'm very excited about his ideas and vision for keeping Idol creatively vibrant. He brings the talent and energy needed to keep AMERICAN IDOL strong."

"The Idol franchise is a worldwide phenomenon and I'm honored to be a part of the most popular of the franchises, AMERICAN IDOL," said Blankens. "I can't wait to get started as auditions for the new season are just a few weeks away."

In addition to his work on Idol, Blankens was the Managing Director of Friday TV, part of The Shine Group and Head of Programmes for Meter Television, one of Scandinavia's leading production companies. There, he oversaw productions including Idol, Master Chef and The Biggest Loser. Blankens has won multiple awards for Swedish Idol and other television work including the Crystals and Aftonbladet TV Prize in Sweden. Blankens served as the producer of Idol in Sweden from 2007-2011 with great ratings success. In its 8th season in 2011, the program had a 51% share of total viewers (3+), performing 145% higher than broadcaster TV4's prime time average. It also proved a hit with young adults (15-24), consistently ranking as the number one show in its time period with market shares of up to 60%, 196% higher than TV4's prime time average. Swedish Idol attracts young viewers, with 35% of the audience in the key 15-39 demographic.

And here's Lythgoe's (really long) statement:

"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 6 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. 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."



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