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UPDATE: Les Moonves Calls CBS ‘A Fundamentally Different Co’ As 2Q Results Top Profit And Revenue Expectations

UPDATE, 2:45 PM: Les Moonves stuck to familiar themes in his conference call with analysts. He says CBS is “confident” it will collect about $250M next year from cable and satellite retransmission payments. That will eventually grow to about $700M and “it drops right to the bottom line.” The CBS chief also says he’s unfazed by Fox’s plan to launch Simon Cowell’s talent contest The X Factor. It’s “going to be a big hit” at a time when American Idol “is still a monster.” But Moonves says “it won’t hurt us” because CBS attracts a different audience with its scripted shows. The old series in its vault also have new value as online services including Netflix and Amazon search for shows to stream. Moonves says that Dish Network — which recently bought Blockbuster — wants programming. Also, “we hear Apple wanting to buy content and Google and Microsoft,” he says. All in all, “CBS is a fundamentally different company today than we were a few years ago.”

As for the rest of the call, someone really needs to tell Chairman Sumner Redstone to cool it with the “genius” references. Analysts laughed months ago when he used the word to describe Moonves and Viacom’s Philippe Dauman. Redstone sadly trotted it out again today, saying that Moonves delivered “the performance of a genius” in 2Q. It’s no slight to him to say that luck is also a big factor in the company’s upbeat story. Read More »

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Ryan Seacrest’s Huge Salary Contributes To ‘American Idol’ Profit Swoon At CKX

American Idol host Ryan Seacrest’s fat contract with CKX — the quirky company that owns the rights to the show — seems to have done a number on Idol’s profits. Despite all the upbeat talk about Idol’s ratings resurgence so far this year, the show’s 1Q operating profit for CKX of $13.6 million was down 17% vs. the same period last year on revenues of $28.4 million, down 2%. Publicly traded CKX breaks out results for Idol because it accounts for about 53% of the company’s revenues, which also include licensing income for Elvis Presley and Muhammad Ali. The report is as good a barometer as you’ll find for Idol‘s economic performance: CKX collects a license fee from Fox, as well as revenue for Idol-related syndication, sponsorship deals, merchandise and its concert tours. But CKX’s 48% operating profit margin for Idol in the three months that ended in March was the lowest 1Q result for the show since 2006, when CKX began reporting the show’s finances. CKX says that its Idol-related expenses came to $14.8 million. That’s up 17% from last year — and 260% from two years ago. The biggest change appears to be the $45 million employment contract that CKX struck with Seacrest in 2009 that locks him in through 2012. CKX has already paid Seacrest $33.5 million; Fox, in turn, pays CKX $5 million a year for Seacrest. Read More »

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SIMON COWELL: My Exclusive Interview; He Reveals America’s ‘The X Factor’ Judges; But Will It Turn Into ‘The ZZZZZZ Factor’?

I’ll have more from my exclusive interview with Simon Cowell later tonight. But, for now, I can report that Cowell has told me all about how he’s been assembling his judge’s panel for his U.S. version of The X Factor which debuts this fall on Fox. “First of all, it’s like casting a dinner party. You’ve got to have people on the panel you get on well with.” But in my opinion this is sounding like the most boring dinner party ever and I wouldn’t bother staying tuned through dessert. Though recently he admitted that the process has shown publicly “complete and utter indecisiveness”, he made it clear to me he has finally decided on his judging panel.

Cowell tells me that in addition to himself and Antonio “L.A.” Reid, the chairman of Island Def Jam Music Group who resigned to join The X Factor panel on Fox (and about whom Simon said “was my No. 1 choice to sit alongside me on the show”), he has made up his mind to bring back Paula Abdul beside him and to add a Brit singer convicted of assault who’s unknown to American audiences, Cheryl Cole. Of course, Cowell was once an unknown here, too. I understand from Cowell that negotiations for Abdul’s deal haven’t even started and that Cole’s deal isn’t quite done yet. And of course, he could change his mind.

But an insider tells me about Cole that “she’s pretty much a shoo-in for for the show” and will be announced as a judge within less than a week. When I asked Simon about “this Cole woman” who began judging on the 5th season of Cowell’s British version of The X Factor which is now in its 8th season, he laughed at my description of her. I opined about how hard it is for UK personalities to click with U.S. audiences. Though she has her own widely imitated catchphrase there telling wannabe contestants they are “really, really luv-erly” in her incomprehensible Newcastle accent and has become a UK tabloid obsession, over here she’ll just be another nobody. (As Jennifer Lopez asked recently, “She is a singer, right?”)

But Cowell responded: “I never think about it as an American or British audience. I genuinely don’t. I think that’s what’s happened on a lot of these shows now is it’s almost like you’ve got to hire well known celebrities to be a judge. And with Cheryl, when I hired her initially, I’d only met her literally once when I offered her the job on [British] X Factor. I thought she was bright, cute, knew what she was talking about, ambitious. And you meet someone special a few times in your life.. And this girl is special. She’s just got a great ability to communicate. Shes a great judge. She’s smart. It’s just a hunch. If people take to her like the British public did, I think she’s going to do really well in America. And Fox was desperate to hire her.”

“Really?” I asked. “I heard there was pushback from Fox.”
 
“No, absolute opposite,” Cowell claimed. “Mike Darnell and Peter Rice will tell you they wanted her all the time, I showed a tape to Mike Darnell two years ago of a clip I’d shot in England of Cheryl and he said there and then, ‘I’d hire her now for Idol.’ They absolutely fell in love with her. In a way, the deal, it was almost conditional on Cheryl having the gig. They were desperate for her.”

“So,” I said, “wouldn’t it then be expected to have someone quote-unquote famous also on the panel besides you?”

“Yes. Very,” Simon replied. “I’ve always wanted Paula. Always been very vocal about that. I missed her the second she left the show. Always loved working with her even though she can be a pain. And I’ve been consistent about this. I don’t know what it is about her, but I’ve always clicked with her. You just have to get that chemistry, and she’s right. I’ve never found anyone better than her. I think there’s a good chance it will be her. We’ve agreed that we would meet as many people as possible, and now we’re reaching the deadline we’ve got to make the decision soon. But I think she’s got a really good shot.” 

But Cowell poo-poo’ed my suggestion that Abdul now may be too overexposed after serving as a judge on American Idol for 8 years and then departing amid a huge outcry from fans who wanted her to stay, and then moving on to headline another TV talent series as lead judge, CBS’s lame and derivative Live to Dance, which debuted in January 2011 only to be canceled after one season. Simon and Abdul are close friends and he made no secret on and off Idol that he didn’t want her to leave and that he disliked her successors, Kara DioGuardi and Ellen DeGeneres.

Make no mistake: I admire Simon as a consummate showman who knew exactly how to manipulate Read More »

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‘X Factor’ To Feature Contestants Ages 12+: Winner’s Recording Deal To Be Worth $5M

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. Read More »

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Super Bowl TV Spot: Fox’s ‘The X Factor’

Nellie Andreeva

Fox is premiering promos for 2 hyped new series during its telecast of the Super Bowl: one for Simon Cowell’s X Factor and one for the Steven Spielberg-produced prehistoric saga Terra Nova. Here is The X Factor spot. Just like the first teaser released in November, the new one is heavy on CG animation. But this time, it’s all about star and producer Simon Cowell. I’d describe it as cool with a touch of megalomania:

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Cola War Over New Simon Cowell ‘X Factor’


EXCLUSIVE & UPDATED: Obviously all those scandals affecting the UK version of his The X Factor talent show hasn’t scared away advertisers for the American version which debuts on Fox in Fall 2011. Now I’ve learned that a Cola War has kicked off. There’s a $50 million to $100 million auction going on right now between Coke and Pepsi for sponsorship of Cowell’s U.S. version of The X Factor. Coca-Cola has been a longtime sponsor of Fox’s American Idol; it got in on the ground floor for less than $10 million. That was a bargain based on ratings that were off the charts for the 12-week program, beating network promises by about 10% and capturing 23 million viewers for the closing finale. The soft drink company has one year left on its Idol contract and now Aerosmith singer and new Idol judge Steven Tyler is its poster boy. It makes sense that Coke would want to jump on The X Factor bandwagon as well. But even though I hear Coke is offering more money, my sources say Cowell et al think Pepsi would make a better fit.

Because of doubts about the show format, Pepsi passed on a multimillion-dollar sponsorship when American Idol was still an unknown in the early stages when dealmakers were trying to have more of the show’s expenses underwritten. Pepsi doesn’t want to make that mistake again. Not to mention that different sponsors would help The X Factor brand itself a new identity on … Read More »

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TV TEASER: Simon Cowell’s U.S. ‘X Factor’

Nellie Andreeva

The U.S. version of Simon Cowell’s reality smash The X Factor won’t premiere for another 10 months, but Fox is already launching its promotional campaign. Next: The Statue of Liberty morphing into Cowell?

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Simon Cowell’s 6th ‘X Factor’ Scandal In UK

Fox brass are getting more and more nervous  about the way Simon Cowell is conducting this controversial but lucrative 7th series of The X Factor in the UK before the show comes to the U.S. in Fall 2011. Viewers are ringing up ITV and TV regulator Ofcom complaining that Sunday’s vote show was rigged. They’re mad because Treyc Cohen, 28, was booted off The X Factor after a sing-off with tabloid favourite Katie Waissel, whose panic attacks and other escapades make for better ratings than Cohen’s serviceable voice but dull presence. One judge abstained after two other judges, including Simon Cowell, voted to send Cohen home, and a fourth judge voted for her to stay. Had that judge not abstained, creating deadlock, then the public vote would have decided the winner, which would have been Cohen Read More »

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Q&A With Simon Cowell About U.S. Version Of ‘The X Factor’ For Fall 2011: “Zero Rules. Anybody Can Enter, Anybody Can Compete”

EXCLUSIVE: Simon Cowell tells me that Fox has promised it will spend the same amount on the U.S. version of his The X Factor talent contest that the UK programme costs to produce – $2.4 million. Next year, Fox will broadcast it and American Idol in 2011 with Idol running from January to May, and The X Factor airing from September to December. Idol has been the biggest programme on American TV for the past 8 years, and is understood to contribute $200M-$300M to Fox network profits every year. So Cowell, 51, is feeling the pressure of matching that success. Meanwhile, the 7th UK cycle of his X Factor is costing ITV £50 million to make — but earns £72 million in revenue through a mixture of advertising (£50 million), sponsorship (£10 million), phone-line revenue (£5 million), the live tour (£5 million) and merchandise (£2 million). It is estimated that Simon Cowell’s production company Syco, co-producer Talkback Thames, and broadcaster ITV split the £22 million profits between them.

With a personal fortune estimated at £165 million, Cowell just signed his next £100 million 3-year deal to keep Got Talent and X Factor on UK TV. And I’ve learned that Cowell’s Syco also is developing a game show with links to the UK national lottery; the idea is to produce scratch cards that will let viewers join in at home for big cash prizes. Right now, it’s difficult to overemphasise how important The X Factor has become in the UK national consciousness because of he incessant chatter on radio, TV, and Fleet Street. I caught up with Cowell while he was preparing for Saturday night’s 2 1/2-hour show which peaked at 13.2 million viewers with a 51% audience share:

Deadline London: What changes are you going to make to the U.S. X Factor so that it’s different to the show we see over here?

Cowell: I said to everybody the other day, with the American show, just think blank sheet of paper. Don’t make any promises, don’t make any predictions. Go in with a blank sheet of paper right now. I can feel a change in the air. While everybody’s going left, we’re going to be going right.

DL: What do you mean, there’s a change in the air?

Cowell: Look, I’m not going to tell people in advance what we’re doing. When you’re making a reality show, you can’t even plan a week ahead now. So we’re hopefully going to be in sync with what’s happening in the States at the time. I like to try and make as many decisions as late as possible. What I will say is that it will be like nothing else you’ve seen before on American TV, I guarantee you that. There are a lot of surprises in store, there’s going to be a lot of surprises. But I’m going for it.

DL: How would you describe what the new show’s going to be like for U.S. viewers used to American Idol?

Cowell: Zero rules. Because I can’t bear rules. For instance, I’ve never liked the idea you have to be a certain age to be a pop star. I like the idea that anybody can enter, anybody can compete. And obviously the fact that groups can compete as well as individuals. They haven’t had that on American TV before. I thought long and hard about whether to bring the show over to America or not. The show’s done so well all over the world, and I think to myself ‘Is this room for one more show?’ What’s never happened in America before is a big talent show that runs up to Christmastime. The US show will run from September to December next year. We’re putting a lot of resources behind it. But the main thing is that we’re going to America because there’s a lot of talent in America and there’s a lot of people over the age of 30 who want to get to these shows as well. It should be a 14-year-old competing against a 50-year-old competing against the next ‘N Sync. That to me is an interesting show because it’s got a variety of contestants. And we are going to scour the whole country to make sure that the whole of America is aware of the show and is given the chance to audition in as many different places as possible. Read More »

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Simon Cowell’s 4th UK ‘X Factor’ Scandal

The X Factor boss has allowed one contestant to stay on the show despite knowing she’s a hooker. “We haven’t banned prostitutes,” Cowell said. “If a person applies to The X Factor, it’s obvious they want to do something better with their life.” Nineteen year old Chloe Mafia (real name Chloe Heald) told judges she was jobless, and got through to the boot-camp stage despite audience boos. Tabloid newspapers are currently negotiating five-figure deals with the teenager about her more than 140 arrests. There’s already been scandal after scandal, some about  audio enhancements used on the talent show. But, as Cowell knows, there’s no such thing as bad publicity.The X Factor, produced by Cowell’s production company Syco, is pulling in its highest Saturday night ratings of the series so far. The 5th episode of the singing competition peaked with an audience of nearly 13 million on ITV1 and a 52% audience share.

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Simon Cowell Negotiating $32M ITV Pay Day

The network is trying to tie The X Factor supremo down to a 3-year deal. Cowell said on Friday that the UK X Factor could move to January 2012 to accommodate next year’s U.S. version. ITV executives have been looking for replacements for its ratings juggernaut, which got 10.8 million viewers on Saturday. Network executives had hoped the talent show would be running out of steam by this Fall’s series 7, giving them greater bargaining power. Cowell, 50, has even coined the nickname Mr ITV because he is so powerful at the station. ITV has assured Cowell it has the extra £4 million a year he wants pumped into The X Factor. “What we’re trying to do is make better shows than we’ve done before,” Cowell told the BBC. “If we can’t do that, there’s no point in doing it.” Given that Cowell’s current £6 million a year contract expires at the end of 2010, you do wonder why it’s taken ITV this long to get their biggest star to renew. Meanwhile, Cowell is investigating getting into the movie business providing he can find the right partner. Read More »

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‘The X Factor’ Won’t Be on ITV Screens Next Year As Simon Cowell Focuses On U.S. Fox Launch

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 … Read More »

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Simon Cowell Reacts To Cheating Scandals

Simon Cowell has dumped the episode of the show that was planned to air tomorrow because it’s not up to his standards, says the Daily Mail. Instead, TV viewers will see the show which was meant to air on September 4. Cowell says that people have to be able to trust The X Factor because of the  cheating scandal. Supposedly, he was up until 3 AM on Thursday morning editing two shows side by side. He then made the decision to swap them round. The show’s producers have been accused of cheating after it emerged that contestant Gamu Nhengu had her vocal Auto-Tuned. More than 300 fans complained to ITV — and regulator Ofcom said it is investigating any accusations of unfair advantage. It has also emerged that show producer Talkback Thames used sound-filtering technology during auditions of another of Cowell’s UK shows, Britain’s Got Talent.

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‘The X Factor’ Rocked By Second Scandal As Simon Cowell Bans Use Of Auto-Tune

The UK show’s bosses are debating whether to drop a contestant from this season’s first episode after it emerged she already has a record contract in the U.S. Katie Waissel, 24, sailed through to the next round after Saturday night’s opening show, not telling producers Syco and Talkback Thames that she already has a two-record deal on a jazz label.

Simon Cowell, meanwhile, has banned performance-enhancing software from edited pre-recorded auditions. The X Factor has become embroiled in what newspapers are gleefully calling “the TV scandal of the year”. Cowell is anxious to shore up the talent show’s reputation before it transfers to the U.S. in Fall 2011. Viewers have complained to UK regulator Ofcom about Zimbabwean-born contestant Gamu Nhengu having her voice tweaked with Auto-Tune. Before this scandal, Nhengu was tipped as a potential winner. Programme-makers have admitted using Auto-Tune to help contestants when they sing sharp. Worse, it has emerged the software is also used to make no-hopers sound worse. “The integrity of the show is very important to him [Cowell] and so he told production that Auto-Tune cannot be used again,” one source told the Daily Mirror.

Syco has stressed that Auto-Tuning is never used in the live editions of the show, where votes are cast. “If anybody could prove that Auto-Tuning is used in the live shows, then they have a real problem,” one … Read More »

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