Will Simon Cowell stay or go?


You know that American culture is changing when the future of an “American Idol” judge merits a story by the New York Times. So, what is Simon Cowell planning to do?

There have been rumors in past years that Cowell was preparing to exit Idol. He is by far the highest-paid judge, but the show is owned by Simon Fuller’s 19 Entertainment, now a part of US-based CKX Inc. The two Simons parted ways years ago after collaborating on “Pop Idol,” the British TV series, which, although it hasn’t aired since 2003, was the format for shows in numerous other countries, including “American Idol” on Fox, the #1 show in the United States for several years running.

Simon Cowell is such a big audience draw that Simon Fuller and Fox have been willing to pay plenty to keep him on Idol as a judge. Meanwhile, Cowell launched “The X Factor,” which has become the #1 TV show in Britain, and “Britain’s Got Talent,” which traveled across the pond to become a hit for NBC as “America’s Got Talent.” So, rather than be an employee of Idol, there is an obvious attraction for Cowell to focus instead on bringing X Factor to the US.

What’s stirred the pot recently and even gotten the attention of the NY Times? Simon Cowell’s elder brother Tony, who fancies himself some sort of authority on pop music, does an Internet podcast in which he offers his opinions on a variety of subjects and plays snippets of songs that he likes, whether anyone else does or not.

In his latest podcast, Tony Cowell noted that his brother’s X Factor had wrapped up another season. “Meanwhile, Simon prepares for a new season of Idol — or should I say, his last season of Idol. OK, I will. Because it is. As I sit here with my family in the sunny Caribbean, a press statement is being prepared, which will confirm what everyone expected: Simon will leave Idol at the end of 2010 to concentrate on bringing the American version of X Factor to US TV in 2011,” big brother said.

No such press statement has yet been issued. Also, it appears that Tony Cowell has removed podcast #51 from his website. Never fear, nothing that has been on the Internet is ever really gone. The podcast has been preserved on the Entertainment Weekly website and, no doubt, other places as well.

RBR-TVBR observation: “The X Factor” never went head-to-head with “Pop Idol” in Britain, since the show that spawned “American Idol” ran a mere two seasons on ITV. While there are US networks that would no doubt ante up big to get the rights to “The X Factor” and have Cowell on screen, there is a real possibility that the US audience would distain the show as a mere knock off of “American Idol.”

Given the network’s existing relationship with Simon Cowell for “America’s Got Talent” and its desperate need to boost ratings and get out of 4th place, NBC is the most likely network to win the bidding for a US version of X Factor. But stay tuned to find out what happens.