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Fox and Simon Cowell confirm 'American Idol' exit, 'X Factor' launch


By Christopher Rocchio, 01/11/2010 

Fox and Simon Cowell have confirmed he will leave American Idol after its 2010 season to focus on launching an American edition of his British The X Factor reality competition series for the network in Fall 2011.

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"We reached an agreement formally at about half past 10 this morning," said Cowell, who inked his new deal in front of reporters at the Television Critics Association's press tour on Monday, Daily Variety reported.

"Where we have come to and agreed is that The X Factor will launch in America in 2011, with me judging the show and executive producing the show. Because of that this will be my last season on American Idol, this year."

Cowell also told reporters that there were conversations about him remaining with American Idol while also working on The X Factor.

"But when we looked at the practicalities of that, it was impossible," said Cowell, Entertainment Weekly reported.

"In my opinion, it's like having a good player and a good football team. The two have to be OK together. I believe it's not my show, but it's still very close to me. We made sure when we did this, that I would be protected. I'm confident it will continue to be the No. 1 show. Everyone is committed to keeping it that way."

Fox reality chief Mike Darnell said since Cowell already serves as a judge on both Britain's Got Talent and The X Factor in the U.K., doing both a stateside version of The X Factor and American Idol to the mix would have spread him too thin.

"He couldn't possibly have done four shows," Darnell told reporters, according to Variety. "Those shows are huge smashes there, and he's also loyal to ITV. He decided this was best."

Cowell described The X Factor as a "big production."

"In the U.K., we have 200 applicants every year. There is no upper age limit on The X Factor and groups are allowed to enter," he told reporters, EW reported. "We gave ourselves time to set it up. It gives us time to work out who the judging panel will be."

In addition, Cowell hinted that The X Factor may give a platform for him to reunite with Paula Abdul -- who announced last summer that she was leaving American Idol.

"I adore Paula," said Cowell, Variety reported. "Whatever happens, I will be working with her in some capacity because I miss her. You're just going to have to watch this space."

While he had insisted it wasn't a negotiating ploy, Cowell had spent the last year stating he was unsure whether he'd remain with American Idol once the five-season extension he signed in 2005 expires after the show's ninth season this year.

The contract -- which has also kept Cowell from appearing on-screen for America's Got Talent or any of his other U.S. projects during the five-year period -- also included an agreement that prevented him from selling the rights to an American adaptation of The X Factor during the contract period.

Cowell first began publicly speculating about the possibility of launching The X Factor stateside after his American Idol agreement expired early last year. 

In December, London's The Times newspaper had reported Cowell was in the process of finalizing a deal for an American The X Factor edition that would air on Fox and feature Cowell -- who created The X Factor and has served as the original British edition's lead judge since it launched in 2004 -- as its lead judge and begin filming in Los Angeles in September 2011.

Later that month, Cowell's older brother Tony had also proclaimed that Cowell would "leave Idol at the end of 2010 to concentrate on bringing the American version of The X Factor to U.S. TV in 2011" during a  weekly music radio show he hosts.

"I'm thrilled that we have put a date on the launch of the U.S. version of The X Factor, and delighted to be continuing to work with Fox," said Cowell in Fox's announcement of the deal.

"We have a fantastic relationship, a great team and are all very excited about this."

Darnell added the network "can't wait" for The X Factor's stateside debut in 2011.

"We have had a very successful relationship with Simon Cowell for many years, and we're absolutely delighted to continue our relationship with him," he said.

Fox Entertainment president Kevin Reilly said he's thrilled with the fact that the network will now have American Idol in the winter and spring, So You Think You Can Dance in the summer, and The X Factor in the fall.

"I love the spine of having these shows throughout the year," said Reilly, according to Variety.

Cowell added he thinks American Idol and The X Factor can co-exist independent of each other.

"I wouldn't have put The X Factor on if I didn't think it could exist separately," he said, Variety reported.

"I do two shows in the U.K. -- Britain's Got Talent and The X-Factor -- and both had their highest years ever... I'm very proud of what [Idol] has achieved. America needs a second show, a different type of show. I'll put my absolute heart and soul to make this as good as possible."

The X Factor will be produced by Syco Television -- Cowell's joint venture with Sony Music Entertainment -- as well as FremantleMedia North America, which also co-produces Idol.

"The X Factor has enjoyed an unparalleled success in its U.K. home market and globally," said FremantleMedia North America CEO and Idol executive producer Cecile Frot-Coutaz. "We are truly excited to bring it to the U.S. and look forward to building another entertainment franchise in the marketplace."

Cowell left Pop Idol -- the British series American Idol was based on -- after its second season in 2003 to launch The X Factor, which subsequently debuted in the U.K. in September 2004 and effectively replaced Pop Idol, which didn't continue after Cowell's exit.

The X Factor's U.K. launch later sparked a lawsuit in which Idol creator Simon Fuller and his 19 Entertainment company sued Cowell and FremantleMedia over the show's similarities to the Idol concept.

The lawsuit's settlement -- which featured Fuller and 19 receiving a minority interest in The X Factor -- was reportedly also part of the conditions of Cowell's 2005 American Idol extension agreement.

With this being his last season as an Idol judge, Cowell said he hopes to go out on a high note.

"I want to leave Idol this year bigger and better than its been before," Cowell told reporters, according to Variety.

"We've done the auditions, it feels fresh, it feels relevant. I'm excited about going back onto the show, and hope it's going to be higher than it was last year."

Fox declined to comment on American Idol's potential renewal, according to Variety, which reiterated previous reports that a new three-year deal that will take the reality series through its thirteenth season in 2014 is currently in the works.

(Photo credit Fox)


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