On a call promoting the new X Factor recording booths that are being dispatched to six cities for auditions, boss Simon Cowell shared his frustration over the dragged-out decision on who the remaining two judges will be, joining him and Antonio “L.A.” Reid on the panel. “We are still having nightly arguments, trying to get everyone to agree,” Cowell said. “If you ask everyone, you have 25 different opinions.” He admitted the process shows “publicly complete and utter indecisiveness.” He had previously hoped to have everyone in place by the start of the show’s auditions March 27. As for names, Cowell confirmed that Black Eyed Peas’ Fergie is a name that “was put forward” but, like with anyone else, there is a long process of checking availability and willingness to commit. “This is not a two-days-a-week job,” Cowell said, referring to the judging gigs on other competition shows, including American Idol. Another name that had just popped up was that of Gloria Estefan. Cowell said that the singer unexpectedly “turned up” today at the X Factor Miami auditions “and did a great job. She gave everyone support and encouragement.” Other female singers that have been constantly bandied about for X Factor jobs are Cheryl Cole, Mariah Carey, Nicole Scherzinger and Paula Abdul.
As it is gearing up for the launch of The X Factor in the U.S., Syco Entertainment, the joint venture between Simon Cowell and Sony Music Entertainment, has made several top-level executive appointments.
Charles Garland has been named COO Syco Entertainment and will oversee the day-to-day running of the company. Garland, former COO for 19 Entertainment, the company of American Idol creator Simon Fuller, succeeds Elis Watson who left in December.
Simon Jones has been named COO Syco Television, USA and will now oversee all of Syco’s TV operations in the US. Both Charles and Simon will report directly to the Syco Board and Simon Cowell.
Additionally, George Levendis has taken the position of Syco Television’s Head Of International and will oversee the company’s global TV franchises like The X Factor and Got Talent, working closely with Syco’s producing and broadcast partners and the Sony Music offices around the world. “I’m delighted to welcome Charles to Syco and know he will bring his talent and enthusiasm to the future of Syco,” Cowell said. “Simon and George’s International roles will help to strengthen Syco TV’s shows around the world.”
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.
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:
Back on December 12th, I broke the news about a Cola War between Coke and Pepsi raging over Simon Cowell’s new U.S. version of The X Factor coming to Fox this fall. And I tipped that Pepsi was leading. Now that sponsorship battle has been won by Pepsi, according to an announcement just made by Fox Broadcasting Company, Cowell’s Syco Television, and FremantleMedia North America today. ”The comprehensive sponsorship of The X Factor by Pepsi includes an extensive, multi-platform off-air marketing partnership; weekly in-show integrations and placements; and an immersive content experience online. Pepsi will be the exclusive beverage sponsor of THE X FACTOR both on and off-air,” the announcement states.
Obviously all those scandals affecting the UK version of Cowell’s The X Factor talent show didn’t scare away advertisers for the American version. I heard there was a $50 million to $100 million auction going on between Coke and Pepsi. 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 it made sense that Coke would want to jump on The X Factor bandwagon as well. But even though I heard Coke was offering more money, my sources said Cowell et al thought Pepsi would make a better fit. And he said so today. “I am absolutely delighted Pepsi is going to be our partner for The X Factor in America,” Cowell officially announced. “It feels like the perfect fit, and I love their ambition and excitement.”
Because of doubts about American Idol‘s format, Pepsi passed on a multimillion-dollar sponsorship when the show was still an unknown in the early stages when dealmakers were trying to have more of the show’s expenses underwritten. Pepsi didn’t want to make that mistake again. Not to mention that different sponsors would help The X Factor brand itself a new identity on Fox in the U.S. market outside of Idol’s shadow. No matter, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp is convinced that with both a reworked Idol kicking off this month and a transplated X Factor, Fox could have a banner 2011. Unless America is just saturated with talent contest shows. That’s not the case in Britain where Cowell’s UK version of The X Factor enjoyed its biggest season to date despite of, or because of, the constant controversies. Meanwhile, Fox is said to have earmarked a whopping $35 million to promote the launch of The X-Factor next fall.
An X Factor insider tells me George Michael was never even in the running for the US show, despite UK tabloids splashing that the controversial singer is a definite alongside Brit pop singer Cheryl Cole. Elton John, who was also being talked about, says he won’t be taking a judges chair. There’s speculation that Cowell has also approached Mick Jagger and Noel Gallagher, notoriously surly frontman of rock group Oasis. Cowell will announce the US X Factor judging line-up next month. Surely the US X Factor needs to have American judges such as Kanye West or Jay-Z – another one who’s turned down Cowell’s blandishments I’m told — not more Brits sitting alongside the pop Diaghilev.
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 …
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?
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.
JLo Getting Overall Fox Deal Along With $12M ‘American Idol’ Judging Job — But Her Most Diva Demands Were Refused
EXCLUSIVE: I’ve learned that Jennifer Lopez had been negotiating for a guaranteed “go” motion picture and TV pilots at Fox to accompany an asked-for $15 million American Idol judging paycheck. But the powers-that-be who produce Idol – Fox, Fremantle, and 19 Entertainment — balked. It was her manager Benny Medina (whom she once fired) who first orchestrated the meeting with the Idol producers in June, and, by the end of July, J-Lo accepted the offer to be a new Idol judge. Since then, she, Medina and her producing partner Simon Fields have been trying to milk the gig for all they could get from the movie studio and broadcast network/television programmer to further her stalled career in the film/TV area. One bargaining chip they had, I can report, is that Simon Cowell already asked JLo to be a judge on the U.S. version of his The X Factor when it debuts on Fox in Fall 2011.
Among JLo’s demands, “she was angling for an overall deal at Fox, including a put picture, to keep the movie career going. But Fox said no,” one insider tells me. “In the old days, these were called a ‘vanity deal’ for good reason. They simply don’t exist today. Will Smith doesn’t have put pictures.” Another informant says she also was angling for TV development projects to replace the ones that had gone by the wayside when her career grew cold. Also, Team JLo was pissed that …
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 …
This past Saturday was the start of the new season of the British version of The X Factor, and it was revealed over the weekend that Simon Cowell’s show has been using Auto-Tune to make the audition contestants sound better by correcting pitch and disguising off-key mistakes. Not surprisingly, fans are outraged. Many pop singers use Auto-Tune on their recordings or in live performance. But no one knew it was being used until Saturday’s season premiere, which featured a performance by 18-year-old contestant Gamu Nhengu who sang Katrina and the Waves’ 1980s hit “Walking On Sunshine”. After hearing her effort, judge Simon Cowell told her she was “really talented” before she was unanimously voted through to the next round, in part because of her compelling back story. That’s when fans crowded onto Facebook claiming they could clearly hear that vocal enhancements had been employed on Gamu’s voice and accusing the show of perpetrating a massive con. (“When she got going on the second verse, there’s a 10-second chunk where it’s really, really sharp and there’s an Auto-Tune moment.”) In response to the controversy, an X-Factor spokesman admitted that post-production work such as vocal enhancement technology was used because of all the microphones on stage to “deliver the most entertaining experience possible for viewers”. But the spokesman promised that the live shows will indeed “be live”. The use of Auto-Tune is a hot button issue in the music industry with both JayZ and Christina Aguilera protesting its prevalence. …