'American Idol' changes its tune a little

Fewer audition episodes among format tweaks

Fox is readying to announce some "American Idol" format changes.

The tweaks have been rumored online thanks to a memo leaked to a fan site. The network is set to reveal the plans Monday and hold a news conference with executive producer Ken Warwick.

The changes include:

-- Fewer audition episodes and more Hollywood-round episodes. The shift increases the show's emphasis on talented performers and shies further away from the crash-and-burn spectacle of less-talented attention-seekers.

-- To further emphasize the focus on the most talented singers, the semifinalist rounds will feature the top 36 contestants instead of 24.

-- Adding some unpredictability, the "wild card" round will return, which gives eliminated contestants a chance to come back into the competition for one of the top finalist spots.

-- The network will not air an "Idol Gives Back" charity telecast next year but does plan to hold the event in the show's ninth season. Moving forward, "Gives Back" will become an every-other-year event.

Earlier this year, Fox announced the addition of a fourth judge (Kara DioGuardi) and the departure of executive producer Nigel Lythgoe. The network doesn't expect the changes to result in a ratings reversal for the six-year-old show -- which has withstood broadcast's overall ratings erosion better than most -- but hopes the shake-up helps stem whatever audience drain might otherwise occur.
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