Nine series in, and with viewing figures on the wane, Simon Cowell nevertheless believes there’s plenty of life left in the UK version of The X Factor.
With ITV’s three-year deal with Cowell’s production company Syco due to expire at the end of the year, some commentators have speculated that 2013 could be the last we see of the X Factor – as well as its stablemate Britain’s Got Talent – on ITV.
“I guess there will be conversations then” Cowell told BBC News, adding: “It will be on TV for a long time to come. Both shows will.”
Choosing his words carefully, Cowell didn’t actually say “ITV”, he said “TV” – so there is an outside chance that he is thinking of brokering a deal elsewhere, perhaps even for BGT and X Factor as separate entities, rather than as a package as ITV currently buys them.
But the truth is, ITV and Syco need each other.
There is nowhere, realistically, for Cowell to take his talent shows in the UK other than a lower-rent (and low budget) broadcaster like Channel 5. Surely he would rather watch The X Factor slowly fade away on ITV, than see such a cult of his personality degraded with an instant reduction in viewing figures and credibility.
Meanwhile, ITV still can’t come up with any big entertainment formats to replace the Syco properties – remember Superstar, anyone? Yep, they need the X Factor for its three months of weekend ratings boosts, even if it’s not as big as it used to be.
So, essentially, this speculation and war of words looks futile. Surely a new Syco/ITV deal will be signed later in 2013 to ensure X Factor and BGT are on ITV until at least 2015?
Dismissing poor ratings for The X Factor, Cowell admits that he and his team need to keep working: “I never go into anything thinking the numbers are going to go down, because the first thing I say to our production team is you’ve got to make a better show than last year.”
However, with new shows like Food Glorious Food in the pipeline, and a fledgling indie production company launched, can Cowell really keep all these plates spinning in the UK whilst continuing his attempt to conquer America?
The answer is quite simple – until someone else comes along with a better idea for crowd-pleasing tabloid-fuelling event TV on Saturday nights on ITV… he’s going to have a bloody good try!
Sign up to the Radio Times newsletter for the latest TV and entertainment news