Simon Cowell's 'X-Factor' Planning Facebook Voting
Fox, Simon Cowell and producers of The X-Factor are in talks with Facebook to bring online voting to the upcoming U.S. version of the singing competition, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.
According to plans currently being negotiated, voting via Facebook would be reserved for the final rounds of the show, scheduled to launch in the U.S. on Fox this fall, and it would happen alongside a traditional phone voting system. Details and security issues are still being worked out, and an insider cautions that a deal could fall apart or the system might not be worked out in time for the show’s first season. But the plan is for viewers to be able to vote for contestants via their own Facebook page or an X-Factor application. The roll-out would be part of an innovative global partnership with Facebook that would include all versions of X-Factor around the world.
Facebook voting would immediately distinguish X-Factor from its U.S. competitors and from American Idol, which Cowell left last year after nine seasons. Facebook, with 550 million users worldwide, also is by far the largest social networking website in the U.S, giving X-Factor a huge promotional platform and an opportunity for fans to engage with the show via a service most already use. Facebook would also benefit from a partnership with X-Factor, which will arrive in September amid massive hype due to Cowell’s fame from Idol and his huge success with X-Factor in the UK.
However, a deal with Facebook instead of longtime rival MySpace—which, like Fox, is owned by News Corp.—would be sure to ruffle feathers inside the company. Idol, for instance, this season allowed potential contestants to submit videos of themselves via MySpace. While the show’s producer Nigel Lythgoe told an Atlanta newspaper that Idol will soon add online voting, nothing has been announced (UPDATE: EW reports Facebook voting could be added to Idol as soon as next week). Reps for Fox, Facebook, Cowell and his Syco Television declined to comment.
Cowell is said to be a major force behind the move to online voting. The reality mogul, who will star in and executive produce the U.S. X-Factor with FremantleMedia North America and Fox, is said to covet an audience as similarly youthful as the show enjoys in the U.K., where it delivers far more younger viewers than any other unscripted show (some estimates in the U.K. say that 60 percent of X-Factor’s audience is aged 15-34).
The U.K. X-Factor has already leveraged social media to boost audience engagement. Contestants often communicate directly with fans via Facebook and Twitter and viewers sometimes generate 500 tweets a second when the show is airing.