ITV keeps Cowell on job with extension to 2009

'Talent' on tap for 'X Factor' host

LONDON -- ITV director of television Simon Shaps has extended "X Factor" host Simon Cowell's U.K. deal by 18 months, keeping the acid-tongued reality star exclusively with ITV until the end of 2009. In July, Cowell signed a deal to remain with the network until 2008.

Under the terms of the new deal, which does not affect his U.S. on-air deals, Cowell will be exclusively contracted to ITV in Britain.

He will star in a number of different projects including the U.K. version of "America's Got Talent," to be titled "Britain's Got Talent," to be co-produced by Cowell's production company Syco TV and Talkback Thames. Former Daily Mirror editor Piers Morgan, who judged the show in the U.S., will join Cowell on the panel for the U.K. show.

Since appearing as a judge on the first series of "Pop Idol" in 2000, the impresario has evolved into one of the reality entertainment world's most bankable TV talents and three years ago launched Syco in partnership with Sony-BMG.

Audiences for ITV's current season of "The X Factor" have peaked with more than 10 million viewers and the show ranks as the No. 1 entertainment program among 16- to 34-year-olds in the U.K. this year, with average shares of more than 50%.