Nigel Lythgoe leaving 'American Idol'

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The showrunner of the most popular series on television is stepping down.

"American Idol" executive producer Nigel Lythgoe on Monday confirmed reports that he will leave the reality series and pursue a new business partnership with fellow "Idol" executive producer Simon Fuller, with whom he created Fox's other performance hit, "So You Think You Can Dance."

"Due to the huge success of 'Dance,' my summer will be taken up by travels to South Africa, Australia and Canada to work on local versions of the show," Lythgoe said. "I will step back from my day-to-day producing work on 'American Idol' and will be devoting my time to a new venture with Simon Fuller."

Fuller is chairman of "Idol" co-production company 19 Entertainment, and Lythgoe is president. The company will continue to produce "Idol," though it's unclear whether Lythgoe will retain his title under the new arrangement.

Details of the Lythgoe-Fuller partnership were not disclosed, though Lythgoe likely will head a new reality production entity. 19 Entertainment on Monday denied reports that Lythgoe is exiting the company. Lythgoe also will continue to co-host and executive produce "Dance," which recently was renewed for a fifth season.

"I've worked with Nigel for over 10 years, and he is the best producer I have ever worked with," Fuller said. "We are a great team and have shared phenomenal success. Under our stewardship, 19 has grown into a formidable force, and we are now looking at developing a number of shows through a new joint venture."

Lythgoe has been with "Idol" throughout its seven seasons and also executive produced its U.K. forebear "Pop Idol." Sources say fellow executive producer Ken Warwick, who also has been part of the U.S. show since the beginning and oversees many day-to-day production elements, likely will step up to take a greater role. The possibility of adding another executive producer has not been ruled out, however.

The departure comes after the lowest-rated "Idol" season in years. Fox and producers repeatedly have said there will be changes to the show next season, though not among the on-camera host talent.

"We congratulate Nigel on the proposed joint venture he is developing with Simon Fuller," Fox said Monday. "He is an extraordinarily talented producer whose creative contributions to the No. 1 show on television have been immeasurable. While we are disappointed that he will no longer be executive producing 'American Idol,' we are pleased to continue working with him on 'So You Think You Can Dance' and look forward to working with him on his new projects."
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