No pressure Simon Cowell... but millions of pounds rest on the next few months
After a disappointing year for The X Factor, Cowell needs Britain's Got Talent to perform before he sits down with ITV to thrash out a new contract, says Mark Jefferies
Simon Cowell took his yearly break in the Caribbean this Christmas and looked like he was having fun in the sun with his partner Lauren and baby Eric.
But knowing Simon, even if he managed to put his mobile phone down for a few days, his brain would have been working overtime on new ideas and plans for 2016.
Simon has a vital few months ahead, which could make or break his next ITV deal.
The three year contract for Britain’s Got Talent and The X Factor ends this year.
So by the time BGT finishes in a few months time, negotiations will be underway for the next deal.
The current contract, which runs until December 2016, is worth around £150 million.
But back when that deal was put together, both shows were attracting huge ratings every week and were among the most talked about programmes on TV. Now things have changed a little.
Although Simon is quick to point out that X Factor’s consolidated figures make better reading than some would have us believe, the 2015 show was not a huge success. The opening night of the final managed just 5.9 million in the overnights and Sunday’s concluding episode got 8.4 million. Both figures were down on the previous year and several million down compared with the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing.
While I think resting the show is highly unlikely, these figures do effect advertising fees and mean ITV may aim for a cheaper deal this time around.
But if Simon has big plans for The X Factor, and perhaps could sign some new big-name judges in the coming months, that will help him negotiate with ITV.
And then there is BGT. It still brings in huge audiences and is family friendly.
As long as auditions go well in the next few weeks, and the week-long run of semi finals in May produce millions of viewers, Simon will be able to meet with ITV, and by then its new boss Kevin Lygo, and negotiate hard.
But if BGT was to follow X Factor and slide in the ratings by a few million, then he would be worried.
ITV would perhaps look to get a cut-price contract, something Simon would not like.
Speaking at Judges Houses in October when I raised the subject of the new contact, he insisted ITV “would never allow” the show to be rested.
He also said he was not worried about the future of The X Factor, saying: “This would not be a difficult show to put anywhere now. It brings in a very passionate and loyal audience. The advertisers love it, the sponsors love it.”
Since the two shows began, Simon has always been in a position to make them bigger and better, with more money for budgets and more money for his company Syco and himself.
But he needs a big few months. BGT has to perform, and he needs some big X Factor signings, if ITV is to give him a “yes” vote and hand over another £150 million.
Mark Jefferies is Showbiz Editor at the Daily Mirror