UPDATE: Simon Cowell has confirmed he may not do next year’s X Factor for ITV. He is still undecided as he wants to concentrate on the US version. His final decision will be made in a few more weeks. Cowell said: “At the moment you are going to see me doing one show next year – and not one in England.” Cowell told the Daily Star that the launch of US X Factor could leave him no time to do X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent.

PREVIOUS: ITV bosses have been quietly looking for shows to replace its Saturday night ratings juggernaut next year. Cowell and his Syco production company are concentrating on next year’s Fox launch. X Factor’s disappearance until autumn 2012 would blow a hole in ITV’s ratings. This weekend the show celebrated its highest ratings of the series yet – peaking with 12.5 million watching. Saturday’s show was watched by an average 10.6 million UK viewers — compared with 9.8 million the week before. Last year’s X Factor contributed an estimated £100 million in ITV ad revenue. A single 30 second spot during last year’s pre-Christmas finale cost advertisers £250,000. It was thought Cowell would juggle his time between Britain and America, perhaps splitting the 2011 UK show in two parts straddling Christmas. All ITV and X Factor producers Talkback Thames and Syco will tell me is that they are looking at a number of options going forward. “It is a ticking time bomb,” one ITV insider says.

Network executives are looking for several shows to replace X Factor, just as Channel 4 is searching for various replacements for Big Brother. One of the replacement ITV shows will star Jonathan Ross, the ex-BBC chat show host who caused so much trouble for the Beeb when he and Russell Brand left crass messages on the answering machine of Fawlty Towers star Andrew Sachs. But Ross’ edgy, ironic humour isn’t suitable for peak time Saturday night light entertainment. Saturday nights on British TV have long been the domain of novelty acts, comedians and ventriloquists – much like those seen on Cowell’s Britain’s Got Talent.

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