Simon Cowell made a surprise appearance at a screening of the first two episodes of The X Factor UK today in London. Of a possible return to the show he departed in 2010, he told the BBC, “I wouldn’t rule it out.” Cowell has been expected to make special appearances on the upcoming season, but up until now word has been that he wouldn’t make a full-time return. Today’s BBC report suggests he didn’t jettison the idea entirely, but he also didn’t elaborate whether his input will be more than occasional guest spots, or potential sit-ins when other judges might sit out. It’s more likely he was speaking about the future, given that the show already has four judges locked for the season that kicks off on August 31: Gary Barlow, Nicole Scherzinger, Louis Walsh and Sharon Osbourne, who is coming back to the show after leaving in 2007. If he were to come back in a ramped-up capacity this year, he’d be shuttling back-and-forth between the British version and Fox’s X Factor in the U.S. The American shows air during the week and the UK episodes are at the weekend meaning he’d be logging quite a bit of fast-turnaround air travel.
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 The X Factor closed its 9th season on the UK’s ITV on Sunday night with the lowest audience for a finale since 2005 2006, according to overnight data reported by The Guardian. Declining figures this season have led to suggestions that a revamp is coming for the 10th series, the last the show has contracted with ITV. There are also suggestions that Cowell may need to return to the judging panel to save the show. Cowell made a special appearance on The X Factor UK in September, but while it helped the show win the night, it did not boost overnight ratings from the previous Cowell-less episode. Still, The Times of London writes today, “The X Factor may not be dead but either the end is nigh, or Cowell’s return is.”
This Sunday night’s season finale hit a peak of 12.8M with delayed viewings. Overall, an average 11.1M viewers (with delayed viewings) watched the two-hour show that aired from 7:40pm to 9:40pm for a 39.6% share. That was a 2M down from last year’s finale and more than 6M off the 2010 finale, The Guardian reports. Figures for the semi-final show last weekend were down 40% compared to 2010 when Cowell was still a judge, according to The Independent. (That season launched boy band One Direction.) Advertising revenues are also said to be down. ITV will generate about £85M in advertising coin from this season, according to The Guardian, about £15M down from its peak.
British media are reporting that Nicole Scherzinger, who earlier this year was booted from the U.S. version of Simon Cowell’s X Factor along with Paula Abdul and Steve Jones, has joined the UK incarnation of …
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
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.
This sounds like a conveniently timed media uproar just as Simon Cowell’s UK-broadcast The X Factor airs its first 2½ hour live show beginning tonight. Or else it’s the 5th recent TV scandal plaguing Cowell. In any case, Simon is defending his show’s producers after a UK newspaper claimed they knew one short-listed contestant faced deportation and told X Factor judge Cheryl Cole not to pick her. Instead, pop singer Cole chose two other contestants over viewer favourite Gamu Nhengu, the Zimbabwe-born 18 year old. Cowell told Deadline that it’s not true that the show’s producers ordered Cole to drop Nhengu. “We were unaware there would be any problem with her visa until this week,” he told Deadline.
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.
ITV has assured X Factor boss Simon Cowell that it has enough money to do a revamp of the show as planned. “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.” Filming on the US X Factor stars next March, which could mean moving the next Britain’s Got Talent series to Fall 2011. Cowell said that he was setting up a joint venture with new CNN host Piers Morgan for talk shows. “He’s a brilliant interviewer,” said Cowell. The X Factor boss also called Lou Reed “petty and pathetic” for not allowing Susan Boyle to perform
UPDATE: Susan Boyle’s famous audition for Britain’s Got Talent was digitally tweaked, according to a show insider. The Evening Standard quotes an anonymous source saying that the show’s production team — which is the same as The X Factor — smoothed out the Scottish singer’s voice in post-production.