There’s a longish interview with Simon Cowell, in FT Magazine, that’s worth the read. The ex-American Idol judge and X Factor creator talks mostly about the latest season of X Factor UK, airing in Britain right now. Catching my attention, howeverm were the amazing statements he made about the failed US version of the singing show, which was cancelled by FOX last year after 3 difficult seasons.
Simon believes that X Factor USA COULD MAKE A COMEBACK!
First, he acknowledges he made mistakes, not only when X Factor debuted on FOX in the fall 0f 2011, but when he “threw in the towel” after the show posted lower and lower ratings.
“I stupidly said at the beginning, ‘We’re going to get 20 million people.’ I didn’t realise the market had changed so quickly and we got 12. So I felt from the outset that we’d failed and so did everybody else. I should have thought, ‘Actually, 12 is fantastic’, and kept my mouth shut. I think, on both sides, it was a mistake to throw the towel in. I felt I’d rather be doing a show where we’re wanted [in the UK] than pushing something uphill.”
“I think it will come back again,” Simon declared.
Come back WHERE? There’s NO WAY FOX would take it back at this point. Maybe he could cut a deal with a cable channel. The US cable channel, AXS TV, is airing the X Factor UK one day after the show airs in England. But good luck finding the channel, which sits way up the dial. It’s not carried on all cable systems, and usually only as part of a premium package. But even an obscure cable channel like AXS may be hesitant to pick up an original version of X Factor. Singing shows are losing their luster. Even The Voice ratings have been sliding season to season. I think Simon may be a wee bit delusional here.
“The thing about X Factor is you know what you’re getting,” he says. “If we said, ‘There’s a low base of five to six million’, we might build on that but it won’t be less, compared to a new drama that might only be a million. There’s a reason it produces so many stars, unlike the other shows. It doesn’t rely on gimmicks: a spinning chair, or a wall going up and down. I genuinely do believe it’s the best format.”
X Factor was notching around 4 million viewers, with ratings in the 1s on FOX before it sputtered to an end in 2013. In what universe would X Factor get 6 million viewers if it came back to the American airwaves? You can make fun of those spinning chairs all you want (I sure have) but The Voice has won the singing show ratings wars, and will probably be the last one standing in the end. Networks don’t care about your “stars” (which X Factor USA also failed to produce) they only care about how many viewers between the ages of 18-50 are watching your show.
Nevertheless, Simon feels if FOX had stuck with the X Factor, if he had been given the time to produce a star from the US franchise, he could have turned things around.
“I think if they’d stuck with it and I’d had a bit more confidence, I would have turned that show around in a couple of years. I would have just kept on banging away, banging away. You get one lucky year with casting, you get a One Direction, and the whole thing turns on its head.”
Actually, I think the handwriting was on the wall after the second season. FOX had more patience than another network might have had. If Simon had been willing to make a lot of changes–like cutting back the hours drastically–FOX MIGHT have renewed it. And it might have stuck around, because FOX is in the cellar right now.
But at this point–X Factor has the stench of failure all over it. No network is going to give it another chance, least of all FOX.