A slimmed-down ‘American Idol’ returns for season 14

By Lynn Elber ,AP

LOS ANGELES — ��American Idol�� is practicing addition and subtraction in its 14th season.

Longtime judge, short-time mentor Randy Jackson is gone. Music executive Scott Borchetta, whose impressive credentials include acting as mentor to Taylor Swift, will play that role for contestants and the winner will be signed to Borchetta’s Big Machine Records.

There’s another shake up ahead for the series, which returns with an hourlong episode Wednesday (8 p.m. EST) and a two-hour episode Thursday (8 p.m. EST): Starting with the live shows in mid-March, ��American Idol�� will cut back to a two-hour show once a week, on Wednesday.

It’s a logical move given the aging show’s ratings decline in an increasingly competitive entertainment landscape, said analyst Brad Adgate of Horizon Media. ��American Idol�� dipped last season to an all-time low weekly average of 10.2 million viewers, according to Nielsen company figures.

That’s about a third of the 30.2 million the singing contest hit at its peak in 2006, when Taylor Hicks claimed the title over runner-up Katharine McPhee. But ��Idol�� remains a relatively strong performer for Fox, one the network seeks to protect, Adgate said.

��Whatever audience erosion will happen this year will be mitigated by limiting the show to one night,�� he said.