Simon Cowell Calls It Quits On American Idol
Cowell will quit the top-rated show on television at the end of this season as part of his plan to focus on launching a new series, "The X-Factor." Fox has picked up "Factor" for the fall of 2011, when "Idol" is on hiatus.
Cowell's decision to walk away from his estimated $36 million-per-season "Idol" gig could have major consequences for the show, which has declined in the ratings in recent years. Given that Cowell was the most expensive part of producing "Idol," however, Fox could end up with a more profitable show, even if ratings drop due to losing its most popular judge.
Fox chairman Peter Rice and entertainment president Kevin Reilly officially announced the "Factor" pickup and Cowell's "Idol" departure today at the Television Critics Association's winter press tour in Pasadena.
"In my opinion it's like having a good player on a good football team," Cowell told the critics. "But when the player retires the team will continue to be very successful. I'm confident 'Idol' will continue to be the No. 1 show. I want to leave 'Idol' this year bigger and better than it's been before."
The U.S. version of "X-Factor" will be a similar format to the UK version, with Cowell acting as judge and executive producer. The other judges will be announced shortly, Cowell said.
The "X-Factor" plan means Cowell will be off American television for more than a year.
"I loved that first year on 'Idol' when I didn't know know whether it would work or not," Cowell said. "I have that feeling now [about 'X-Factor.']"
In the FremantleMedia and Cowell-produced "X-Factor," a wide range of singing talent is split into groups and mentored by one of the show's four judges. Unlike "Idol," the singers on "Factor" will be as young as 14, with no upper age limit. The format of the U.S. version is expected to be similar.
"The judge is judged as well as the singer," Cowell said.
Cowell arrived in Los Angeles yesterday for the start of Hollywood Week on "American Idol" and to sign his deal with Fox. Negotiations were touch-and-go up to the last minute, with executives prepping for two different possible Q&As with critics. In a bit of theater, Cowell signed the last page of his "contract" on stage.
Fox is also planning to order three more seasons of "Idol," but that deal is not yet finished.
"Our expectation is that 'Idol' will go on for many, many, many more seasons," Rice said.
Fox executives also shot down speculation that there's a current deal to bring Conan O'Brien to the network.
"We had some informal conversations that were mostly commiserating about the situation," Reilly said. "There's not much more we can illuminate on this, we're just in wowee mode now."
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