Dermot O’Leary admits he thought celebrity X Factor was “a risk”

The X Factor format is having a much-needed facelift for 2019

Dermot O'Leary - The X Factor 2018

The well-flogged X Factor dead horse is heading out of the stables after a major overhaul ahead of the 16th series.

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Wannabe singers competing to impress Simon Cowell and land a record deal have been scrapped in favour of two shorter mini-editions: an all-star edition, which sees former winners and memorable acts return, and a celebrity version, which sees famous faces take to the stage.

Rumoured names include TOWIE’s Megan McKenna, former Strictly star Brendan Cole and a Love Island supergroup – with former judges Nicole Scherzinger and Louis Walsh thought to be joining Cowell.

But X Factor host Dermot O’Leary admitted he initially believed a gimmicky celeb version of the ITV singing contest was a risky move.

“It was a bit like: OK, so, we’re doing what now?’ And then I thought: ‘Well, it’s a risk, but it’s worth it,’” he told Fabulous magazine. “Honestly, though, it was a pretty easy sale for me. All I know is that I think this will work. I think it’s funny. I think it’s warm.

“Of course you want to find someone with a good voice, but the show isn’t going to take itself too seriously. It’s going to be different and interesting and I think that is hopefully going to keep us fresh.”

Dermot O'Leary on The X Factor 2017

O’Leary, who has fronted every series bar one after taking over from Kate Thornton in 2007, said the show had to modernise, particularly after other reality shows faced criticism over the treatment of contestants.

“I think the world around us is changing and you have to change with the world,” he continued.

“You’re allowed to take the mick, but the show is now – and has been for a long time – a softer beast. I guess we just evolved. These are real people on television and you’ve got to make sure you look after them. I think the fact we’re talking about mental health now is only a good thing.

“I do get kind of a bit weary about the notion that the show was ‘nasty’. Simon was never that nasty in the first place. All I could do was control my little bit and make sure I treated people with respect, while still having fun with them.”

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The X Factor launches later this year