Simon Cowell made a surprise appearance Monday at the TCA press tour to announce that X Factor will launch in 2011 with him as host and executive producer, and that this will be his last season on American Idol.
In a stunt, Fox's Peter Rice called Cowell to a podium to sign the deal in front of the media.
X Factor will launch on Fox in the fall of 2011, and be produced by Cowell's Syco Television (which owns the show) and FremantleMedia North America.
The show is a proven format that airs in 17 countries.
Fox topper Rice and Fox Entertainment President Kevin Reilly
said they anticipate airing X Factor in fall, keeping Idol in
spring and making So You Think You Can Dance a summer series only
(originally a summer series, Dance aired in fall this season), to complete
a spine of talent competitions throughout the year.
Fox has been vigilant about keeping Idol to once a
year. Rice and Cowell both shot down the notion that X Factor will be
akin to another season of the same series, noting the differences between the
shows. Among the differences detailed: X Factor has no upper age limit;
it includes musical groups; the auditions are live; and the panel mentors the
Cowell, who will be a judge on X Factor, noted that
he has two talent shows on in the U.K. and both showed growth last
season. Cowell said he wanted to leave Idol while it was on top and that
he expects this season to be "bigger and better" than ever. "I said a couple
years ago at the end of the contract I was leaving," Cowell said. "Everyone
thought I was negotiating but I felt like doing something different."
Rice and Reilly said they would take the time they have
before Idol next year to suss out how to replace Cowell at the Idol
judges table. Cowell did not reveal any judges besides himself on X Factor, but
he did indicate former Idol host Paula Abdul has a shot, saying: "I've
gone on record. I adore Paula. Whatever happens I will be working with her in
some capacity because I miss her."
Melissa Grego contributed to this report.