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Fox unveils schedule, cuts back 'American Idol'

  • In this photo provided by Fox Broadcasting, from left, Sam Woolf, Jena Irene and Alex Preston perform on the April 30, 2014, episode of the 13th season of "American Idol." 21st Century Fox reports quarterly earnings on Wednesday, May 7, 2014. (AP Photo/Fox Broadcasting, Michael Becker)

NEW YORK — Fox will cut "American Idol" to one night for several weeks next spring, part of a reset for a struggling network that will have 12 new series in the coming year including the much-awaited "Batman" prequel "Gotham."

The network announced Monday that it will also break up its Sunday animation block by moving in the critical favorite "Brooklyn Nine Nine." Two of its Tuesday-night comedies will be replaced by an unscripted show that imagines people setting up a new society in an undeveloped area.

"American Idol" will air for some 37 hours next winter and spring, compared to the 50-plus hours that have been running for years, Fox entertainment chief Kevin Reilly said. After the initial auditions, the series will probably air a two-hour show once a week. The show's decline from television's biggest phenomenon to just another moderately successful series, combined with a failure to mint new hits, made this season a tough one for Fox.

"'Idol' is not going to come back to be the ratings champion it once was," Reilly said. "But we believe the show can be on for many years to come."

He compared it to CBS' "Survivor," once a sensation but now a dependable, mid-level hit — coincidentally one that frequently beats "Idol" in the ratings.

The "Idol" decline meant fewer people have tuned in live to Fox this season. With network TV's youngest audience, Fox is also hit harder than its rivals in the switch to other forms of viewing that doesn't show up in traditional overnight Nielsen ratings — streaming online, DVR usage and video on demand, Reilly said.

Five of Fox's new series already have a place on Fox's fall schedule, with the rest to come later in the season. "Gotham" has the biggest buzz — Fox says a trailer online has already been seen 6 million times — and will air Monday nights. It follows a 12-year-old future caped crusader in a city teeming with crime. Although Jada Pinkett Smith will play a new character, crime boss Fish Mooney, most of the show's characters will be familiar to followers of the comic book series.

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