Singer Kara DioGuardi (centre left) has joined the judging panel
American Idol producers have confirmed changes are being made to the US hit talent show when it returns in January.
The updated format will include cutting the number of weeks featuring auditions from four to three and more contestants will be picked to compete in Hollywood.
Executive producer Ken Warwick said "wild card" finalists, who are picked by the judges, are being reintroduced.
"If something goes horrendously awry, the judges could fix it on the wild card show," he said.
Twelve finalists will be whittled down with nine chosen by audience voting.
Judges Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul, Randy Jackson and a previously announced newcomer, singer-songwriter Kara DioGuardi, will select three wild card singers.
Ratings for the last series of the show dropped by 7%, but Mr Warwick denied the changes had anything to do with the slight drop in audience figures.
David Cook won the last series
He also denied Abdul's future with the show was uncertain, after she criticised producers earlier this month for ignoring her concern over letting a stalker appear on the show.
"There's never been any discussion that we would want to get rid of Paula.
"I would definitely not put a dangerous person or person I thought was remotely dangerous in front of the judges," he said.
The eighth series of the show, which is also shown in the UK on ITV2, will begin in January with a two-night four-hour premiere.