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'American Idol' to shrink next season

Alex Preston performs Ed Sheeran's

Alex Preston performs Ed Sheeran's "The A Team" on "American Idol," airing Wednesday, April 16, 2014. Credit: Fox / Frank Micelotta

"American Idol" -- limping to the finish line this season, or "limping" relative to immediate previous seasons -- will be cut back to 37 hours next year, and likely air on one night per week as a two-hour edition, Fox Entertainment chief Kevin Reilly told TV writers recently. 

 But Reilly did offer a big vote of confidence in the veteran series, which has essentially fallen off the "franchise" pedestal this season: It will, he said, be around "many years," though in a diminished capacity, much as "Survivor" no longer dominates.... 

"It's not going to come back and be the ratings champ it was, but it will come back for many years to come as a potent time period show," he said. "In the same way 'Survivor' hasn't been [dominant] that's the mode with 'Idol.'" He also dashed any suggestion that "Idol" remains in some sort of "turnaround" limbo. "That story's been told..." The show will be reformatted next season -- no details except the change to 37 hours from the 50-plus-hour editions that have historically aired.

Just to refresh memories, as if they might actually need refreshing, "Idol" helped Fox win season after season through the '00s, much as "Sunday Night Football" has been so critical to NBC's turnaround. "Idol" is now essentially just another series - a successful one certainly, but a financially stressed one, given the enormous host salaries, and other related production expenses. Reilly said nothing about the hosts next season -- though nothing should be read into that. Host announcements invariably arrive in late summer or even early fall. 

 But he did certainly offer hope that the end is nowhere near in sight...

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