'The X Factor' creator and judge Simon Cowell: I may have a different role next season on a totally revamped show
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 12/19/2013
The X Factor will be revamping its upcoming fourth season if Fox chooses to renew the series, according to creator and judge Simon Cowell.
With the reality singing competition's third season concluding with its finale tonight on Fox, during a recent conference call with reporters, Simon talked about what producers have in mind to better the show going forward and increase ratings.
Simon, what do you think about this season overall? And are you coming back next season if the show gets renewed?
Simon Cowell: Very direct. I think the show started off okay. I thought the Four Chair Challenge section of the show was terrific. I thought the early live shows were okay and the last two weeks have been amazing. I think the show will be coming back next year.
As to my role on it, I might have a different kind of role. We haven't discussed that yet. But as a series, particularly because this is a talent [competition] -- and I'm biased, but it's true -- and because of what Alex and Sierra have achieved on iTunes over the last couple of weeks, which is phenomenal, I've never seen this happen with an artist, from a contestant.
I'm really happy because the show is set up to achieve what it sets out to achieve, which is you find the star. So I'm really happy.
Do you have any plans to work with Restless Road in the future? You were clearly a big fan of that group.
Simon Cowell: I think so, yes. In any one of these situations, you kind of let the fans decide for you, because if they're really, really -- if they're going to really follow this group, they let you know. They did the same thing with me last season with Fifth Harmony.
So they kind of make up our minds for us. There seems to be a lot of support for them. And they're great guys, and they're very talented, and I was disappointed they weren't in the finals. I think they've got a future ahead of them and they're hard workers, as well, those three.
You mentioned the possibility of you potentially having a different kind of role next year. Are you suggesting it's possible that the show could come back, but you might not be a judge? You could just be in a producer role or something like that?
Simon Cowell: I'm not necessarily saying that. I think that with the current landscape as it is, and there's another music show -- because we need another music show next year in America. We're going to have a very, very crowded marketplace. What we have with The X Factor is a huge, core fan base that loves the show, but we've got to be more different next year than we were this year.
So we're in the middle of a presentation to Fox to say, "This is what we think the show should look like, this is what we think the fans will like." And yes, my role could change on that show, but I can't say any more than that.
Last season, you revealed the actual voting results at the end of each results show. It was indicated at the beginning of this year that you were going to do the same, but then you never did. What happened and how did that change the show?
Simon Cowell: I just think that we made a decision in the end that it was the wrong thing to do. We decided that we were going to allow our iTunes chart positions to be shown instead. You can actually... records in iTunes, but you don't actually go into the charts.
Now, I don't know, because I genuinely don't know. I haven't got a clue, in fact, who has won each week. But I think the iTunes thing was probably a cooler way of doing it than having the leaderboard. And if it was the same person every week, then I suppose it would have been boring.
The good thing about not showing it was -- actually, it wasn't a good thing -- but in terms of TV, is that I was convinced, convinced, Restless Road were going to be in the final. So something must have gone wrong before that.
How do you feel about The X Factor actually trailing behind The Voice in ratings right now?
Simon Cowell: Thrilled. Love it. No, of course we're not happy about it. But, you know, we're all big boys here. When you run a record label, you run a TV company, sometimes you win, sometimes you're in second or third place.
But the great thing about our team is that it never gets us down. Everybody works that much harder. The conversation we had was we haven't opened with a huge number, we'll probably keep that number, but let's make a great series, and most importantly, let's make some great records with the artists.
Because that's what's going to win the long-term battle. I'm never in this for the short term; I'm always in it for the long-term. Luckily, Alex & Sierra auditioned for the show and, please..., they win, because out of all the shows this year, in my opinion, they are by far the best artists to come through any of these shows. So that kind of makes up for being second place in the ratings, I guess.
Is there any chance that, if you come back for another season of The X Factor, the format could change to one night per week rather than two -- similar to that of Dancing with the Stars this season?
Simon Cowell: Possibly, yes. I won't say which night, but I think there's a better night for us, which if we could get it would be amazing. I think the interesting thing about these shows over the years -- and we were talking about this recently -- is that they started off as one-hour shows, and now they've turned into two hours, two-and-a-half hours.
I mean, that's like watching a movie. Then you have a further hour the following day. It is getting, probably, too much, and there is an advantage, which is where we started in the U.K., that the results and the performance show can be one show.
It's only because the shows got so popular that the network started to ask us to make the shows longer and longer and longer. I don't think that's necessarily a good thing. I think that you can pack everything into two hours and I think it could work really well.
What do you think are the chances of the show coming back?
Simon Cowell: Like I said, I think good, because it has a solid audience. What we've learned with these shows, which is very interesting, is that what you start with is pretty much what you end up with. But the secret is, is that what you can do in advance, in terms of publicity and marketing, etc., etc., that people know what's coming, know what to expect -- and, obviously, you have to make a better show.
Look, we have, I think, 47 X-Factor productions running around the world... countries, dips a little bit, you make some changes, then it goes back to No. 1. So we're kind of used to dealing with this.
If you do come back, would you want to keep the same judging panel?
How did you feel about the judges criticizing Sierra earlier in the season for not being as strong a singer as Alex? It seemed to really bother her.
Simon Cowell: I was thinking the night that happened, I mean, look, it wasn't the end of the world, everyone gets criticism, but it was really kind of harsh.
I could see what it was doing to Sierra and I said to the both of them that night what I was concerned about was I've seen artists have a knock like that and not recover. But she came back stronger. So maybe it was a good thing that it happened because both of them have been really, really consistent afterwards. They made their point.
I know you can't say a lot about what the plans are for any changes taking place on The X Factor, but is there one change you would like to see happen with the show?
Simon Cowell: Well, lots. Like I said, you know, we've been making these shows and different shows for a long, long time now. I think the thing you've got to be very careful about is, is that you don't look and sound like everybody else.
It was frustrating becauseThe X Factor was on-air before The Voice and we created the whole mentors thing, you know, where the judges become mentors. Then The Voice did the same thing on their show. But The Voice aired in America beforeThe X Factor and it looked like we were copying them. So you have to be aware of things like that happening.
You have to be really, really aware of what your audience wants or expects. And you've got to be different. And you've got to attract, most importantly, the best talent, because all these artists now have a choice of what shows they can audition on.
They can choose between us, America's Got Talent, Idol, The Voice -- so we, somehow, have to convince the best singers actually, The X Factor's the best platform for you.
Do you think that there are, at this point, too many music competition shows for the U.S. market to support?
Simon Cowell: I think so, probably yes. But look, there's nothing you can do about that. If what we were doing was successful, and it was, then other people are going to come along and compete. I don't mind competition at all. I mean, the record business is the most competitive business in the world, probably. So I'm used to that. In a weird way, it kind of makes you work harder.
We'll always find, like I said to an earlier caller, this is not a short-term business, it's a long-term business. So bit-by-bit, you have to make your shows better and of course you always want to be number one.
How long the market can sustain this amount of shows, I don't know. But what's interesting is, with all these shows doing so well, it's now allowed comedy shows and dramas to do better. So you go through these cycles, and you know this better than I do, in entertainment. But there's nothing you can do about it.
What do you think of Alex & Sierra's potential beyond the show?
Simon Cowell: I don't like to talk about what's outside of the show until we finish the show, [but] let's put it this way. At one point last week, they had five records in the Top Ten on iTunes, so I would say they've got a pretty good shot outside the competition. I'd be an idiot not to [continue with them].
You've had some amazing success with artists that haven't won the competition. Is it necessary that people even win the competition? What advice do you give to the Alex & Sierra duo if they don't win?
Simon Cowell: I always think you have an advantage if you win. I always think it's best to be remembered as a winner rather than as the runner-up.
It's definitely more fun getting the gold than it is the silver. But me, personally, and I said this to the guys yesterday -- I said for the show, basically because I produce the show and no disrespect to the other two, but I want the show to end with the best act winning the show, and [those] two are the best act in my opinion.
So it's really important to me. It's not life or death for the others, but I think you'd always want that kind of memory when you can look back on tape and say this is the moment I wonThe X Factor. Because it is a big moment.