Nellie Andreeva

On the heels of Fox unspooling a new promo for Simon Cowell’s The X Factor during the Super Bowl, the network this morning made several X Factor-related announcements.

First off, the winner of the reality singing competition will be awarded a $5 million record deal, which the producers called “the largest guaranteed prize in television history”, with Syco, a joint venture between Sony Music and Cowell. Secondly, all singers and vocal groups 12 and over will be eligible to compete. American Idol this season brought down the lower end of the contestants’ age limit to 15, resulting in an influx of young talent. But, unlike Idol, X Factor doesn’t have upper age limit.  “I like the idea that a 12-year-old on this show can compete with an older singer and a singing group,” said Cowell. “I’ve never believed there should be a cut-off age for talent, and we are going to put our money where our mouths are with the $5 million recording contract. I’m doing this show in America because I genuinely believe we can find a superstar.” The show is yet to announce judges, with U.K. singer Cheryl Cole, a judge on the British Factor, considered a frontrunner according by the British press, which also lists U.S. singers Nicole Scherzinger and Katy Perry as contenders.

Auditions for the first season of X Factor begin March 27 in Los Angeles, with Chicago, Dallas, Miami, New York/New Jersey and Seattle also set to host auditions. More sign-up information on www.fox.com/theXfactor.

Fox’s reality chief Mike Darnell called The X Factor “a worldwide phenomenon and unlike anything we’ve seen in America.” “The British version is wildly entertaining, but also has a penchant for stirring up controversy. You never know what Simon has up his sleeve, and since he will be working both behind and in front of the camera, the country should brace itself to expect the unexpected.” Indeed, the original X Factor has been involved in numerous scandals involving alleged vote rigging, use of Auto-Tune, etc. As previously announced, Pepsi will serve as an official sponsor of The X Factor. The series is launching in the fall with a promo campaign said to be in the neighborhood of $35 million.


TV Editor Nellie Andreeva - tip her here.