Simon Cowell on U.S. 'X Factor': "I Think it Will Come Back Again”

Simon Cowell X Factor Headshot - H 2014
AP Images

Simon Cowell X Factor Headshot - H 2014

The man behind One Direction laments his early bravado — promising audiences of 20 million for the cancelled talent contest — but sees an opportunity for a comeback

Simon Cowell hasn't had too many missteps in his music and television production career, but the cancelation of the U.S. version of The X Factor in February was a blow to the famously self-assured Englishman. However, Cowell isn't taking things lying down and in an interview with the FT Weekend published on Friday, he hopes the American version of X Factor will get a second chance.  

Cowell charts the failure of X Factor in the U.S to his early bravado before the show even hit the small screen. "I stupidly said at the beginning, ‘We’re going to get 20 million people.’ I didn’t realize the market had changed so quickly, and we got 12. So I felt from the outset that we’d failed and so did everybody else. I should have thought, ‘Actually, 12 is fantastic’, and kept my mouth shut. I think, on both sides, it was a mistake to throw the towel in," said Cowell. 

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Despite the very public failure to hit 20 million viewers, Cowell saw potential and a platform to bring the show back to America. “I think it will come back again,” he told the FT Weekend, adding: “The thing about X Factor is you know what you’re getting ... [I]f we said, ‘There’s a low base of five to six million’, we might build on that but it won’t be less, compared to a new drama that might only be a million. There’s a reason it produces so many stars, unlike the other shows. It doesn’t rely on gimmicks: a spinning chair, or a wall going up and down. I genuinely do believe it’s the best format.”

Later in the interview, Cowell returns to the subject of X Factor in the U.S., suggesting that with time and a bit of luck the show could have been a huge success. “I think if they’d stuck with it and I’d had a bit more confidence, I would have turned that show around in a couple of years. I would have just kept on banging away, banging away. You get one lucky year with casting, you get a One Direction, and the whole thing turns on its head.”

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Once a familiar face on U.S. TV, Cowell has returned to the U.K. to reinvigorate the original X Factor with mixed results so far, but the caustic talent show judge doesn't miss his notoriety in America too much. "[I]f I’m being honest, it’s more of a buzz being part of One Direction than being on television,” he said adding: “I always say to my staff, when we sit in creative meetings, beating ourselves up, ‘One good idea a year can pay for the next 10.’ I was at the Rose Bowl, looking down at the crowd that was watching my group. I felt like I’d really used my brain, rather than being a dickhead on an American TV show.”

Twitter: @gentlemanabroad