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LONDON — Simon Cowell told reporters Sunday that he is optimistic that ITV hit show Britain’s Got Talent can bring in strong, and possibly even higher, ratings this year despite continued competition from the BBC’s The Voice UK.
He also signaled that he wouldn’t return to the U.K. version of The X Factor on ITV and said the future of that show in the U.K. and U.S. would be discussed in upcoming meetings. Syco Entertainment, Cowell’s joint venture with Sony Music, is one of the producers of The X Factor and Got Talent formats.
“They will be very competitive,” Cowell said about music competition show The Voice UK, which will kick off its second season this spring about the same time as Britain’s Got Talent starts its seventh. “I don’t take anything for granted. It will rest on how good the talent is” on both shows.
But Cowell added that he has told the BGT production team that he would start the new season with the belief that ratings could go up. He argued that this would require the show to be even better than last year when Ashleigh and dancing dog Pudsey won it.
Last spring, The Voice UK for several weeks beat BGT in the ratings as people tuned in for the early rounds of the then-new show featuring its signature spinning chairs. But the Cowell show later in the season regained the viewership lead.
Cowell made the comments Sunday afternoon ahead of an audition taping for BGT at the British capital’s “home of variety entertainment,” the London Palladium.
Asked if he could appear on America’s Got Talent in the future, Cowell said he wasn’t planning to. “I like doing this show,” he said about BGT.
“The show’s really become big around the world,” and if the U.K. flagship version works well, all else also works, he suggested. “I like doing one show here and one [X Factor] in the U.S.,” Cowell added.
In that context, he also said that it was unlikely that he would return to the X Factor U.K. edition, which has seen ratings decline, leading to suggestions that Cowell would return as a judge this year. “I would rule that out,” he told reporters.
The X Factor‘s U.S. and U.K. future will be a near-term focus, Cowell signaled, saying there would be meetings in a couple of weeks with the shows’ teams from both countries. He declined to comment on who the judges would be for the upcoming seasons, but signaled the topic would be among the issues of discussion.
With L.A. Reid and Britney Spears exiting the X Factor‘s U.S. edition on Fox, two seats on the judges’ table are unfilled for the third season. The U.K. also could see changes amid lower ratings for its recently ended ninth season.
Cowell attended the Sunday audition event along with BGT hosts and comedians Ant & Dec and fellow judges Amanda Holden, Alesha Dixon and David Walliams.
Asked what factor most determines the success of BGT, Cowell said the appearance of unexpected acts that win over the audience. “You have to be original,” he said. “It has to be something that goes viral.”
Cowell reportedly dismissed the first 10 acts who auditioned for BGT on the first day of auditions in Cardiff, Wales. “The first day in Cardiff, I was sitting there thinking this will be a disaster,” he told reporters Sunday. “The first day was pretty miserable,” but the second day brought more exciting talent, he said.
Asked what act could win this year after last year’s dancing dog sensation, he joked that he has never seen a dancing cat on stage. Some of the BGT judges and hosts Sunday also expressed their optimism for the new season.
“We come on the back of a huge year for Britain,” so there is excitement about showcasing British talent, suggested Dixon in a reference to the London 2012 Summer Olympics and the Queen’s jubilee celebrations.
Cowell later agreed with that suggestion, saying that “if we can bring back that kind of fun spirit, being patriotic again … that is a good place to start.”
Dec, meanwhile, said: “The judges did so well last year,” giving the show momentum for the new season, which will start airing on a date in spring that has yet to be announced. “Of course, it’s all about the people who turn up at the audition,” but the second audition day brought out promising acts following the weak first day mentioned by Cowell, he added.
Comedian David Walliams mentioned that there was a “fantastic” ventriloquist at a Cardiff audition whom the judges liked.
Asked about reports about disagreements between him and Cowell at the early auditions, Walliams said: “It’s just banter [on the show].”
But he suggested that he feels worse than Cowell for performers who don’t make the cut because as an actor he knows the feeling of being turned down. “Simon’s never been turned down – by anyone,” Walliams said.
“All of us are having such a good time together,” Dixon said, calling the decision to return to the show for another year “very easy.”
Asked about her music, she said she made the New Year’s resolution to finish her album in 2012. “I am writing in between” show tapings, she told reporters. “I have been struggling to find time … But I miss being on stage.”
Email: Georg.Szalai@thr.com Twitter: @georgszalai
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