The X Factor is upping the ante in its upcoming rivalry with American Idol.

Simon Cowell and Fox have announced the American edition of the former Idol judge's British The X Factor singing competition will award a $5 million record deal to its winner and revealed audition dates for the show, which will premiere this fall.

"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," Cowell said of the prize, which Fox is billing as "the largest guaranteed prize in television history."

Unlike American Idol, which restricts eligibility to solo vocalists between ages 15-28, The X Factor (similar to Cowell's America's Got Talent reality franchise) will be open to anyone age 12 or older and also allow groups to compete.

"I like the idea that a 12-year-old on this show can compete with an older singer and a singing group... I've never believed there should be a cut-off age for talent," Cowell added.

Like America's Got Talent, The X Factor contestants -- who once the competition begins, will be divided into four "young guys," "young girls," "older singers" and "vocal groups" categories that will each be mentored by a specific judge -- will also audition in front of a live studio audience.

"On this show, the contestants are going to have to do the auditions in front of three or four thousand people.  This way we bring the audience into the audition process as well, they effectively become a fifth judge," Cowell said.

The identities of the three other judges who will join Cowell on The X Factor's judging panel will be announced "in the coming weeks," according to Fox.  However British The X Factor judge Cheryl Cole is likely to be one of the judges, according to numerous recent reports.

While full audition details are still to be determined, auditions will begin Sunday, March 27 in Los Angeles, CA and then continue in Chicago, IL; Dallas, TX; Miami, FL; New York, NY; and Seattle, WA.

Cowell and Fox announced they had inked a deal to have the sharp-tongued Brit leave American Idol and launch an American edition of The X Factor early last year.

"Where we have come to and agreed is that The X Factor will launch in America in [Fall] 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 told reporters at a January 2010 media event announcing the deal.

Although he'd insisted it wasn't a negotiating ploy, Cowell had spent the prior year stating he was unsure whether he'd remain with American Idol once the five-season extension he signed in 2005 expired after the show's 2010 season.
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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 had first begun publicly speculating about the possibility of launching The X Factor stateside after his American Idol agreement expired in early 2009.

While many have questioned whether American Idol and The X Factor will be able to co-exist in America -- Britain's Pop Idol series ended once Cowell launched The X Factor in the U.K. in 2004, sparking a since-settled lawsuit from Idol creator Simon Fuller -- Cowell and Fox believe otherwise.

"I wouldn't have put The X Factor on if I didn't think it could exist separately," he told reporters when The X Factor was announced.

"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."

"I love the spine of having these shows throughout the year," Fox Entertainment president Kevin Reilly added, referring to 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.

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.

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 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.