Season 10 of Simon Cowell‘s The X Factor UK kicks off in a few weeks on ITV. Sharon Osbourne is returning after a five-year absence, and Cowell will make special appearances, but won’t be back full-time. Could Season 11 be a different story? Three-year contracts for both X Factor and Cowell’s other ITV mainstay, Britain’s Got Talent, expire at the end of this year and The Guardian reports that ITV is urging Cowell to return to X Factor as part of the parties’ new contract negotiations. Thinking is that a Cowell return could help goose ratings after last December’s finale hit a six-year low. Still, the show is key to ITV and while the network is staying mum, I’m assured by a source that X Factor UK and BGT “are going to be around for some time to come.” ITV has “an excellent and long-standing relationship with (producers) Syco and Talkback.” Cowell left X Factor UK in 2010 to concentrate on the Fox version in the U.S. Now going into its 3rd season, that show has had some growing pains – Cowell recently likened S2 to a bad dinner party. But the two X Factors air at essentially the same time of year, meaning doing both would be a stretch. If talks do not guarantee Cowell’s return to the UK …
“It’s like having a dinner party – you invite people for dinner and sometimes it’s a fun night and sometimes not as fun as you thought it was going to be,” Simon Cowell said of last year’s judge panel on his singing competition series. When did Simon realize last season’s “dinner party” — Britney Spears, LA Reid, Demi Lovato and Simon – wasn’t going well? “It was more of a feeling it was similar to what everyone else was doing and I had this impatience to get on to Season 3 so I could do what I wanted to do,” Simon told TV critics at TCA Summer TV Press Tour 2013. “This is a fun dinner party,” added Simon of his new all-girl judge panel, seated with him on stage. Last May, Fox announced former Destiny’s Child member Kelly Rowland, and Mexican singer/actress Paulina Rubio had replaced Reid and Spears. Rowland is not new to the gig, having been a judge on the Brit version in ’11.
FremantleMedia and Simon Cowell’s Syco Entertainment are hitting a milestone with the latest local adaptation of their Got Talent format. In what the companies claim is a record for a talent show, the franchise will launch its 55th version in Afghanistan in the fall. Afghanistan’s Got Talent will air on 1TV Media, a privately-owned commercial station based in Kabul. It’s understood that Afghan stars will make up the judging panel, but a UK media report suggests that foreign military troops serving in the area may be eligible to audition. Per Fremantle and Syco, further local Got Talent iterations are on the way. Got Talent Brasil and Kazakhstan’s Got Talent are among recent launches. In the UK, Britain’s Got Talent is coming off a strong season 7 and the U.S.’ America’s Got Talent is in its 8th go-round. That version has been sold to 180 countries.
A full-length trailer has dropped for 3D boy band documentary One Direction: This Is Us. Tri Star Pictures bows it on August 30 in the U.S. after Sony Pictures Releasing rolls out the film worldwide with the UK debut the day before. Morgan Spurlock directed the pic about the teen idols who were discovered on Simon Cowell‘s UK X Factor in 2010. Since then, the band has sold over 29 million records. Cowell, Spurlock, Adam Milano and Ben Winston produce.
The 7th season of Simon Cowell‘s Britain’s Got Talent concluded Saturday night with Hungarian shadow dance troupe Attraction crowned the winners. But it was during the performance of third place Welsh singing brothers Richard and Adam Johnson that a woman raced on stage and started pelting judges Cowell, Amanda Holden, Alesha Dixon and David Walliams with eggs. It later came to light that the egg-hurler was Natalie Holt, a member of the Johnsons’ backing group. She was summarily pulled off stage and issued an apology. But she later told, The Telegraph: “I basically took a stand against people miming on television and against Simon and his dreadful influence on the music industry.” After the show, an ITV spokesperson said the police had been called, but “we have decided to take no further action at this stage.” Ratings for the live final peaked at 13.1M for a 57% share and had an average rating of 11.1M viewers from 7:30-10 PM. Here’s video of the incident; the pelting starts at the 1:49 mark:
ITV has unveiled the judges for Season 10 of The X Factor UK with Sharon Osbourne returning to the show. She’ll join Gary Barlow, Nicole Scherzinger and Louis Walsh. Osbourne was last on the Simon Cowell series in 2007. Last year’s season nine finale hit a low in December and it’s been expected that a revamp was afoot. There will be new double auditions, one set in front of the judges “in an intimate audition room” and the second again with the judges, but in an arena. The auditions kick off on June 4.
As Simon Cowell put it yesterday, Britain’s Got Talent has “gotten some stick” in the past few weeks. Viewers have reacted to what they perceive as inappropriate acts on the show, and also to the fact that some current contestants have previously appeared on TV. Cowell took to Twitter on Sunday to address the latter complaints, saying, “We try and have a no rules policy on the show… Would it be right to say to someone who has appeared on a show before you can’t audition?” Referring to BGT‘s biggest breakout star, he added, “I believe Susan Boyle had appeared on another tv show years ago. Nothing happened. Bgt gave her another go. Is that wrong? I am not whining. Simply wanted to explain there is no hush hush plot. I just think everyone deserves a second chance.”
Simon Cowell‘s Britain’s Got Talent dropped slightly on Saturday from its debut last week, scoring 10.3M viewers for a 47% share, UK network ITV said. The show peaked with an audience of 12.1M, but that was down from a high of 13M on April 13. After going head-to-head with BGT last week, rival show The Voice UK moved out of its way on Saturday. The two shows jockeyed for position last year and this year has been no different with time slots frequently shifting. But the BBC this weekend set The Voice to start at 8:20 PM (BGT starts at 7 PM) and according to overnights, its ratings grew with a season high of 7.92M viewers. That was up 1.25M on the week prior. It peaked at 9.08M.
Meanwhile, controversy seems to be following BGT this season. Last week’s episode featured two acts that were deemed inappropriate by some in the Twittersphere and by a group that campaigns for family values in the media. This Saturday, a five-year-old moved through to the next round with a dance routine, spurring viewers and a child protection group to wonder about his coping mechanisms. A spokesman for BGT told The Daily Mail that contestants’ welfare is the show’s “number one priority.”
Simon Cowell’s Britain’s Got Talent returned to ITV with much fanfare on Saturday night, beating rival BBC show The Voice UK and causing some controversy in the process. BGT had its second biggest launch in seven years scoring an average 10.5M viewers and peaking at just over 13M. Only the 2010 start was bigger with a 10.6M average.
But two acts have been deemed inappropriate by some in the Twittersphere and by a group that campaigns for family values in the media. The performances in question saw an 11-year-old girl sing the one-night-stand-themed “One Night Only” from Dreamgirls, while a 40-something woman did a semi-striptease and gave Cowell a mini-lapdance. Vivienne Pattison, director of Mediawatch UK, told The Daily Mail that ITV appeared “to have completely ignored” guidelines set up by regulator Ofcom which has warned broadcasters about sexually explicit content ahead of the 9 PM watershed. But an ITV spokesman tells Deadline, “In its seventh series, Britain’s Got Talent celebrates variety and showcases a wide range of different acts. Mindful of our family audience, the performance was carefully edited to ensure it was suitably inexplicit.” Ahead of this weekend’s controversy, an ITV source told me the network chose to air BGT at 7 PM despite a clash with the BBC’s The Voice, because otherwise it “would have had to go late” and risk losing the family audience.
UPDATE, WRITETHRU, 9:23 AM PT: The seventh season of Simon Cowell‘s Britain’s Got Talent kicks off in the UK on April 13 and has set the scene for yet another showdown with The Voice UK, shifting timeslots and pitting the two shows head-to-head. The Voice debuted on BBC One on March 30 in the 7-8:35 PM slot, the same space it occupied last year. Then yesterday, it was revealed that ITV would air BGT at the identical hour when it debuts, despite traditionally starting an hour later. The BBC in turn has confirmed that it will back The Voice up by 15 minutes to 6:45 PM starting on April 13 to avoid a direct clash (this also moves Doctor Who back to about 6 PM). Given the flexibility of British broadcast schedules – and how much jostling there was last year – this is unlikely to be the last change in the ongoing battle between the two competition shows. A BBC insider calls ITV’s move “disappointing” saying “it’s not in the best interest of the fans.” An ITV source contends that the BBC “deliberately” slotted The Voice in the spring, where BGT has been since 2006 meaning an overlap was inevitable. To avoid a clash, ITV “would have had to go late” and risk losing the family audience.
Well we know who one of the judges on X-Factor is going to be next season. Fox announced today that Demi Lovato would be returning to the panel for Season 3 in the fall. “I couldn’t be happier that Demi wants to come back this year. She’s a superstar in her own right and was a fantastic mentor last year. Even though she can be really, really annoying – I truly enjoyed working with her and so did the artists. I’m especially pleased she’s back even during her world tour!”, said fellow judge and X-Factor creator Simon Cowell in a statement Thursday. Along with Britney Spears, Lovato was a new addition to the competition series last season. After just one season Spears exited the X-Factor officially in January. Veteran judge LA Reid said last year that he was out too. That leaves Cowell as the only remaining judge from the show’s first season. No replacement has been announced yet for either of them. Despite the bounce expected from the addition of Spears and Lovato to the judges’ panel for Season 2, X-Factor found itself battered in the ratings. The Season 2 finale on December 20, 2012 was down nearly 20% from the Season 1 ender on December 22, 2011.
Questions about Simon Cowell‘s participation in the UK version of The X Factor have been mounting since the Season 9 finale hit a six-year low in December. At the time, there were suggestions that the impresario would ride to the rescue of the ITV show he left in 2010, reclaiming his seat on the judging panel. While he will ramp up his involvement this year, I’ve confirmed that he will not be making a full-time return to the program.
Cowell told Hello magazine over the weekend that he is “definitely getting more involved and will have a role in the next series” of The X Factor UK. The show habitually airs in the fall; basically the same time as Fox’s U.S. version, on which he is a judge. There’s been speculation he could somehow do both, but I’m told instead that he’s likely to make timely special appearances.
Simon Cowell’s Syco Entertainment and YouTube today unveiled details about the March 20 launch of The You Generation, a global online audition channel. Launching in 26 countries, the channel will run a competition over 52 weeks with 26 two-week rounds. Contestants will be able to upload their auditions in categories that range from makeup and style to cooking and of course singing. The submission will be judged by Syco executives and experts. The winner of each round will be announced on the 2nd Friday of every two-week cycle. The winner will receive a cash prize and will become a finalist for the grand prize awarded at the end of the year-long contest. The You Generation will go live with a live stream interview with Syco artists, One Direction. The channel will be hosted by British presenter Will Best. Best and Simon Cowell will announce the bi-weekly contest categories via The You Generation’s technology partner, Skype.
With few exceptions, the success and failure and memorability of most competition reality shows has nothing to do with the contestants. It’s the judges, stupid. So Deadline is going to judge the judges. Criteria will include 1) Expertise in their field, 2) Confidence in their role, 3) Connecting with their contestants, and finally 4) Their charisma and controversy. We start with American Idol’s Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey:
The gold standard of competition TV judges on American Idol is and will always be Simon Cowell. The acerbic Brit was a nobody in America when Idol debuted. But his long history as an A&R exec gave his criticisms and compliments weight and credibility. Same with Randy Jackson, who was a record producer. But short-lived Idol judge Ellen DeGeneres had no background in the music biz. A judges panel usually consist of the nice one, the tell-it-like-it-is one, and the icon or role model. A judge’s job is to rid the show of wannabes going nowhere and encourage potential stars. American Idol has three new judges on the show this season but let’s be honest: there are really only two Idol judges worth talking about — Nicki and Mariah. A sop to the country music market, freshman Keith Urban is just a pleasant prop in strategically distressed blue jeans. Veteran Jackson is just an ineffectual prop who should have been removed last …
Simon Cowell is adding another stream to his talent scouting business. Cowell and Sony Music Entertainment’s joint venture, Syco, is hooking up with YouTube to launch global online talent contest, The You Generation. The contest opens to the public March 20 and will run for one year in an experiment aimed at discovering new talent. Entries are solicited from people with “unconventional and original talents” including musicians, photographers, makeup artists, magicians and chefs, Syco said. Wannabes will upload their videos to the You Generation YouTube channel in a different category every two weeks. They’ll then be judged by “professionals associated with Syco.” Prizes will be awarded every two weeks – though it’s not clear yet what the prizes will be – and there will be a grand prize at the end. The contest is available in 15 languages and 26 countries. Cowell’s already juggling the X Factor and Got Talent shows in the U.S. and the UK where he’s returning to judge Britain’s Got Talent‘s seventh season that kicks off in the spring. Click over for The You Generation promo in which Cowell freaks the hell out of some early contestants:
The first season of The Voice UK was the BBC’s most successful new entertainment show in over a decade, but it was also locked in a ratings battle last year with Simon Cowell‘s Britain’s Got Talent which aired on rival net ITV. ITV originally set a challenge to The Voice when it moved Britain’s Got Talent ahead several weeks so the two shows would debut on the same night. This had followed an earlier bidding war in which both networks were vying for broadcast rights to The Voice. The show held its own against BGT, but endured a ratings decline when the live episodes started. The second season will have four key stages, including a new Knockouts round, but there will be just three live shows. Coaches will.i.am, Jessie J, Danny O’Donoghue and Tom Jones will select 2 more artists each for their teams and will also have the chance to steal one losing artist from a rival coach. It’s not yet confirmed when The Voice UK will start airing this spring, but the live shows are reportedly set for June 8, the same date it’s believed ITV is airing the Britain’s Got Talent finale, meaning there would again be overlap. In December, ITV confirmed Cowell would return to BGT as a judge for the show’s seventh season. …
Creating a new pipeline for Simon Cowell and Sony Music Entertainment’s joint venture, Syco, Over the Top Productions will develop “innovative, niche TV productions to bring more new TV shows to market.” Syco global head of television, Nigel Hall, who helped develop The X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent, will run the new arm out of London. Hall said the group is “already in advanced talks with broadcasters over new formats.” Charles Garland, global CEO of Syco, added, “This is an exciting next step for Syco Entertainment in our expansion plans and reflects our commitment to fostering creativity.” Syco also said it will continue to expand through new ventures and make key appointments this year in the UK and the U.S. It’s currently working on projects that include TV series Food Glorious Food and the features One Chance, based on BGT‘s first winner Paul Potts and in association with The Weinstein Co., and Sony’s 3D concert movie with boy band One Direction that’s being directed by Morgan Spurlock.
UPDATE PM: Sources close to the producers of X Factor confirm that Britney Spears indeed is out as a judge after one season. “The producers and Simon (Cowell) were having discussions over the holiday period about the year ahead. Britney had never been part of their plans for this year but realistically that was never going to come as a surprise to her either,” a source said. I hear Cowell and his team “have a pretty clear idea of the panel they would like for next season and discussions with one possible new judge have been going on for some time now.” The prospective new addition is expected to meet with Fox and the show’s producers in the next couple of weeks.
PREVIOUS AM: Let the annual circus program known as X Factor Judge Shakeup begin! The months of speculation that Britney Spears won’t be back as a judge on The X Factor next season reached fever pitch overnight, following a TMZ report out of Spears’ camp that she is “quitting” the Fox singing competition. The network and X Factor creator/executive producer/star Simon Cowell are not commenting, but it appears that Spears’ team has decided to get ahead of the story and position her exit from the show as “entirely her doing” so she can “focus on her music”. Sound familiar? Nicole Scherzinger, who was sacked as an X Factor judge last January, had her handlers feed E! a story that her firing from X Factor was her decision and her wanting “to focus back on her music career.”
Recently filed financial documents for Simco, the TV production arm of Simon Cowell and Sony Music’s Syco Entertainment, show pre-tax profits more than doubled to £32.6M ($52.2M) for the year ended March 31 2012. The 138% increase was largely spurred by the launch of The X Factor in the U.S., the filing said, according to UK trade Broadcast. Turnover at the division was £54.7M with the U.S. repping £22.93M of the whole, up from just £3.21M in 2011. In the UK, the company reported revenues of £26.7M, up from £21.7M a year earlier. The X Factor recently completed its second season on Fox in the U.S., with a third to come, while the British version is embarking on its tenth series this year. That show is facing declines in the UK with its December finale hitting a 6-year low. Execs are mulling changes for the next edition of the singing competition whose contract is up with Britain’s ITV at the end of the tenth run. Simco also produces the Got Talent format franchise and Cowell is returning to the UK as a judge for the upcoming seventh season of Britain’s Got Talent which scored big ratings for its finale last May. Its contract is also up at the end of the next season and Simco suits are expected to enter negotiations on the future …