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LONDON – Simon Cowell is making a return to British TV screens, announcing Monday that he is coming back as a full-time judge on the ITV1 show Britain’s Got Talent in the spring.
The return is unlikely to clash with Cowell’s judicial responsibilities on Fox’s The X Factor but will prove a boost for ITV, where the show struggled last year without him.
He will be joined on the judging panel by Alesha Dixon, who has jumped ship to ITV from the BBC’s version of Dancing With the Stars, and Little Britain star David Walliams.
David Hasselhoff and Michael McIntyre, who stepped up to the judging panel a year ago, won’t be returning, but Amanda Holden will.
Announcing the move — and the fact that he will be plowing $410,000 of his own money to double the winner’s prize packet — Cowell said he had been homesick for the U.K. and wanted to be back here to host the show’s sixth series.
“I miss Britain and I miss the British public and I miss judging them. I want to find the next generation of talent in 2012,” he said.
“By coming back in 2012, it’s the year of the Olympics, it’s a big year for Britain, we are going to be in the world’s spotlight, and I want this show to be back in the world spotlight.”
Cowell said he had to “put my money where my mouth is” when it came to making the show’s prize attractive to viewers, “so I’m personally putting up £250,000, so that’s £500,000 cash to the winner. That’s a big incentive.”
Last year’s cash prize for the winner was $164,000, plus the opportunity to perform at the Royal Variety show, which this year’s winner will also take up.
Cowell also said he wants to grab more diverse contestants from all sorts of disciplines, not just music.
“I came back because most importantly I want to change the perception of the show,” he said. “I love originality, I love great singers, I love great comedians. I love things I’ve never seen before. Everyone thinks I hate magicians. Well, I hate bad magicians, but I’d love to find a great magician. I’d like to find the next ‘N Sync or the next Backstreet Boys, the next Justin Bieber. I’ve always dreamt about finding a dog who can play guitar. And we’ve failed. So I want talented dogs. I really want one that can dance or can play an instrument.”
Live auditions for the show begin Jan 22.
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