Simon's new show -- five million real dollars

I have to step out in a minute to start taking singing lessons. Also, charisma lessons. Also ...

Anyway, today Simon Cowell announced that he'll give a $5 million prize to the winner of "The X Factor," a show he'll produce and star in this fall. Cowell talked with reporters this afternoon; here's the story I sent to papers:


A competition show doesn't mean much,
Simon Cowell once said, “if there isn't a big prize at the end.”

Now he's guaranteeing there will be
one: The winner of “The X Factor” – which starts this fall on
Fox – will get a $5 million record deal.

That's real money, not just an
accounting trick, Cowell told reporters today (Monday). The winner
gets $1 million a year for five years, for record sales; nothing will
be subtracted for production and promotion and such.

“You've got to put your money where
your mouth is,” said Cowell, whose mouth was famous on “American
Idol.” Now he's gambling that his new show will find the success
“Idol” had with a Kelly Clarkson or Carrie Underwood … as
opposed to lower-selling winners in the Taylor Hicks mode.

The format has already worked in his
native England. When “X Factor” began there in 2004, said Cowell (the show's producer),
its season finale drew about 8 million viewers; the latest finale
drew 20 million.

For the U.S., the basics are:

– The minimum age goes down to 12.
Cowell admits he once opposed having young contestants, but changed
his mind. “We're starting to see a trend of what kids that age are
capable of.”

– There's no maximum age. “I don't
want there to be a lot of rules.”

– This is open to individuals or
vocal groups.

– The first auditions will be March
27, in Los Angeles. Others – with the dates not yet set – will be
in Chicago, Dallas, Miami, Seattle and New York or New Jersey.

– The auditions will have a large
audience, similar to the ones for his “America's Got Talent” and
“Britain's Got Talent.” The first ones will be at the Los Angeles
Sports Arena; others will be in sites of 4-6,000. In England, Cowell
said, the audition audience affected the judges' decisions and the
performances. “I don't believe Susan Boyle would have been
successful in a standard audition format,” he said of a famed
“Britain's Got Talent” runner-up.

– He'll be one of the judges, with
the other two announced in the next few weeks.

– The show will have a different tone
to it, Cowell said. “It has a craziness about it, an
unpredictability a bout it. It's very raw.”

– Eventually, each judge will mentor
three of the finalists. “It's important that you've got (judges)
who are very competitive with each other.”