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The man responsible for creating divas and crooners out of the kids-next-door and attracting millions of viewers each week to Fox’s mega-hit reality show American Idol, is opening up about stepping down.

“It’s like giving birth to a baby and letting it go,” British-born executive producer Nigel Lythgoe, who’s been with the show since its inception in 2002, tells Extra, “Just talking about it is tough.”

News of his departure follows on the heels of one of the lowest-rated seasons of Idol ever. Lythgoe confirmed reports earlier this week that he was leaving to pursue “a new venture” with his Idol producing partner, Simon Fuller. “I was working 24/7 and then some, so there was no time in creating anything else,” he tells Extra.

The 59-year-old is also a producer and judge on Fox’s smash reality series So You Think You Can Dance, which he co-created with Fuller in 2005. With sky-high ratings, Lythgoe says he will continue to work on Dance, which wrapped its fourth season with last night’s finale and is renewed for a fifth. “I think America got it pretty much right to have Twitch and Joshua there [in the final two],” he tells Extra, on whether Joshua deserved to win. “The fans loved the boys’ charisma.”

Lythgoe is also the president of the production company 19 Entertainment—which produces Idol and Dance– where Fuller serves as chairman. Before joining Idol seven seasons ago, he was a producer for Britain’s Pop Idol.

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