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Kill Your Idols: Cowell to Quit AI, Create Rival—for Fox

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Fox network made official today what has been buzzed about in TV circles for weeks: that Simon Cowell will leave American Idol after this season to import his singing-talent show X-Factor from Great Britain. Reports from the TCA TV critics’ press tour in Pasadena say Cowell literally just signed his deal with Fox, dramatically, on stage with network executives.

In the U.K., Cowell’s show was a rival to Pop Idol, American Idol’s parent, and eventually supplanted it. Here, X-Factor will run on Fox in the fall while Idol is on hiatus, so the two shows will share a network. For now.

I don’t have much to add to my earlier analysis of Cowell’s possibly leaving, which you can read here: he’s getting out while he’s ahead, wants to create a show he owns (and thus be super megaridiculous rich instead of just megaridiculous rich), etc.

Will Idol be as enjoyable without Cowell? I’m guessing not. Fox must know that, as reports indicate it basically threw bars of gold at Cowell to get him to stay. But it did the next best thing—ensuring that, should X-Factor kill Idol, or vice versa, Fox will own the winner either way. (Cowell and Fox, of course, say the two shows can co-exist happily, and hey, maybe they will. But it doesn’t hurt to be covered.)

In any case, Idol’s ratings have been on the decline in recent years. And Cowell was apparently so expensive that his departure may well offset the money lost through the audience it loses when he leaves.

Yes, at NBC, the idea of making up for lost audience through cost-cutting died with The Jay Leno Show. But the dream lives on!