Simon Cowell on the US X Factor: “Zero Rules…I Can’t Bear Rules”

Simon Cowell plans to pull out all the stops when he brings X Factor to the US in fall 2011, he tells Deadline London in an exclusive interview.

Simon says the show will have “zero rules” and that contrary to rumors, he  hasn’t booked anyone as host or for the judges’ panel yet.  He will keep those decisions to the very last minute, he says.  Also, Simon claims P. Diddy was never “in the mix.”

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Simon doesn’t criticize American Idol, but he does brag, once again, that he tagged Carrie Underwood early in Season 4 to win that year’s  competition. Read an excerpt below:

DL: How would you describe what the new show’s going to be like for U.S. viewers used to American Idol?

Cowell: Zero rules. Because I can’t bear rules. For instance, I’ve never liked the idea you have to be a certain age to be a pop star. I like the idea that anybody can enter, anybody can compete. And obviously the fact that groups can compete as well as individuals. They haven’t had that on American TV before. I thought long and hard about whether to bring the show over to America or not. The show’s done so well all over the world, and I think to myself ‘Is this room for one more show?’ What’s never happened in America before is a big talent show that runs up to Christmastime. The US show will run from September to December next year. We’re putting a lot of resources behind it. But the main thing is that we’re going to America because there’s a lot of talent in America and there’s a lot of people over the age of 30 who want to get to these shows as well. It should be a 14-year-old competing against a 50-year-old competing against the next ‘N Sync. That to me is an interesting show because it’s got a variety of contestants. And we are going to scour the whole country to make sure that the whole of America is aware of the show and is given the chance to audition in as many different places as possible.

DL: How much is the U.S. version going to cost to make?

Cowell: Each UK programme costs around $2.4 million to produce each week. When we spoke to Fox we needed their assurance they were going to back it financially. All the money goes on screen. It’s not about paying for celebrities; it’s about money going on screen so that it’s like nothing you’ve ever seen before on TV. Fox gave me its assurance that’s it’s backing the show all the way. We’re building a studio in Hollywood that’s going to seat 2, 500 people. It’s going to look huge. It’s three times the size of the UK X Factor stage show.

DL: There’s been a lot of press speculation that you’ve already decided that Brit pop star Cheryl Cole, Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger and even the UK’presenter Dermot O’Leary are definitely coming over to the U.S. version. What’s the truth?

Cowell: Genuinely, nobody has been booked for the show. The only person that’s been booked is me. We’re trying to keep it as open as possible. People approach me to be on it all the time. It’s not about booking well-known people it’s putting together a panel that hopefully Americans will relate to and like. There will be some surprises, genuinely some surprises.

About mj santilli 33688 Articles
Founder and editor of mjsbigblog.com, home of the awesomest fan community on the net. I love cheesy singing shows of all kinds, whether reality or scripted. I adore American Idol, but also love The Voice, Glee, X Factor and more!

17 Comments

  1. Based on the fact that we know when Nigel says “There will be some surprises, genuinely some surprises.”, he means that the contestants will be wearing red instead of blue and that Ryan will say “Next week” instead of “Next Tuesday”….

    I guess we shall see if Simon has a better understanding of what a “surprise” really is…

  2. “Because if there are, like, rules, then I can’t manipulate…er…conscientiously arrange things to my own…er….the best advantage.”

  3. Cowell: Each UK programme costs around $2.4 million to produce each week. When we spoke to Fox we needed their assurance they were going to back it financially. All the money goes on screen.

    If Idol costs the same amount (and the judges/Ryan probably means that it costs more) given the ad rates that we were told about the other day (average of $467,617 per 30 second spot), it takes 5-6 ads to pay for an episode.

    One of MJ’s viewers actually counted the number of ads during the Top 12 Boy’s night (two hour show) in Season 6. There were 9 ad breaks and 67 commercials (ads were worth more back in S6, but we’ll ignore that). At the current ad rate, that’s $31.3 million per 2 hour show.

    If Simon truly does put all the money on the screen, it will be interesting to see what he can do with that kind of budget (keeping in mind that he has to share some of the money with the broadcaster and take a tiny little bit of it home to feather his nest). Especially since he’s not going to be spending the money on celebrity judges.

    “Because if there are, like, rules, then I can’t manipulate…er…conscientiously arrange things to my own…er….the best advantage.”

    That’s how I read the translation as well.

  4. I really think that the US X Factor has a huge chance of being a great success and that then it will be bye bye AI – maybe not immediately.

    But yeah, when Simon says, ‘No rules!’ what he means is ‘I write the rules to suit myself from week to week.’ There’s absolutely no doubt about who calls the tune on that show.

  5. maybe no rules to the show but plenty for the contestants since it’s their mentor who decide song choices

  6. I don’t think Simon is all that. He just has a super ego that makes for good TV and has been lucky a few times.
    His track record with Idols is not that great, for example. He did liked Carrie a lot. But so what? So did the tens of million who voted for her and the millions who buy her records.
    There are lots of examples of people he liked who didn’t turn out successful and of people he didn’t like who are successful.
    As for the X-factor, there is nothing great/original about it (or about Idol, for that matter). Talent shows on steroids.

  7. X Factor, right out of the gate, is having millions thrown at it. It isn’t having to prove its self domestically before tons of cash is being dropped on it.

    It’s not like UK is watching the first season of X Factor right now – they are in season 7. Simon did not create this monster in one day – the show developed over time. It’s understandable that he doesn’t want to start from nothing in the USA all over again.

    Pop Idol was brought to the USA after only two seasons, right?

  8. It’s not like UK is watching the first season of X Factor right now – they are in season 7. Simon did not create this monster in one day – the show developed over time. It’s understandable that he doesn’t want to start from nothing in the USA all over again.

    Pop Idol was brought to the USA after only two seasons, right?

    The point is that Idol had large ratings before they started to increase the budget. The X Factor over here is untested. If it starts off only with decent ratings, if the budget is too high there is more incentive to cancel it. To justify a high budget it needs high ratings.

  9. Pop Idol was brought to the USA after only two seasons, right?

    No, one season. Simon Fuller in fact tried to sell the show in US before Pop Idol Season One was aired, but no one was interested. The show might have difficulty getting off the ground if Rupert Murdoch’s daughter hadn’t seen the first season of Pop Idol and persuaded his father to buy the show. Because it is such a successful show, most people don’t know that American Idol was actually a risky venture for Fox at the beginning (they didn’t really have enough money for the show) and no other network was interested in it.

    There were only two seasons of Pop Idol. Simon Cowell killed Pop Idol after a bit of backroom machination by launching X-Factor and prompted Simon Fuller to sue him for copying his show (case settled out of court with Simon Fuller getting a stake in X-Factor and Simon Cowell agreeing to stay on American Idol until Season 9).

  10. t2:
    I guess we shall see if Simon has a better understanding of what a “surprise” really is…

    Simon will be a true rarity if he does. Very little that gets hyped on TV ever turns out to be as big a deal as the hyping. The real surprises are the ones nobody ever sees coming.

  11. Oh wow I didn’t know they were building a stage just for it. That was actually one of my main concerns about the show. I thought they were just gonna use the cheapy place american idol uses to film which would look like an early X-Factor season set. I love the X-Factor set they’re using now and if the US one is gonna be bigger I can’t wait

  12. I’ve tried to wrap my head around what people find fascinating about x-factor and it totally defeats me. The show is nothing if not about excess. Taking the kids to high class vacation spots so the judges can be treated like the royalty they think they are, filming in the house so that the press will have a field day with icky planted stories of sex and feuds, judges picking material for marginally good singers who are more about looking the part than being talented, creating “groups” out of solo singers who don’t have a clue what harmony is, and allowing babies and grandmas to compete at the same time. Everything about this show is ludicrous…and then the winners go on to have mediocre success anyway even though the show spent millions to make them look like flashy stage ready performers (not). I won’t be watching, just like I didn’t watch Season 9 of Idol ’cause it was so poorly done.

  13. hypnoticwhisper: Hasn’t seen it? Simon executive produces America’s Got Talent.

    I love X-Factor because it’s just more fun than Idol’s been in years. It’s a spectacle. The songs are more diverse, the contestants represent more styles. I like the contestants having mentors and the judges have to put their name to their acts and decisions on keeping or sending home a contestant.

  14. I have to say, I hate stupid rules. And there are a lot of them out there. There are also rules with no consideration to the facts at hand, which drives me insane. BTW, I have a history of rule following (lol), but I just can’t stand the inane or stupid ones. “Like I can’t think with my brain, so I’m following this pre-printed rule sheet.” So, not me.

    I just vented and I think it doesn’t apply to XFactor. But I’ll leave it out there. Unless I’m deleted. :)

    I’m looking forward to XFactor. At least to see Simon and to see if he has the same magic he had on AI. I’m hoping so.

  15. Tess, there’s a lot of truth in what you wrote. Ultimately though, it always comes down to the crop of contestants. I tuned out of AI seasons 3 (after J-Hud’s boot), 6 and 9 because of mediocre fields.

    As for X-Factor, I never really followed it aside from clips here and there that others recommended. However, last week I saw a clip of X-Factor Australia that’s currently running and I was hooked. I’ve since chased down all the episodes from the start and have found it a refreshing change from the tired Idol format. The judging panel is really interested and I was very pleasantly surprised by the high level of talent amongst the competitors. Even the audition episodes seemed to concentrate on showing more good performances than those that were gimmicky or just plain delusional and bad. They’re up to the top 7 (from 12) and I’ve been very entertained so far.

    Whether the 1st season of the US X-Factor will turn out as good, remains to be seen.

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