Cowell Ups The Ante For ‘X Factor’ Winner

The top finisher on Fox TV’s new “The X Factor” will end up rich even if the winner doesn’t become a music star.

Besides a recording contract, the winning singer or singers will receive a $5 million cash prize and be featured in a Super Bowl commercial for Pepsi, “X Factor” creator Simon Cowell said Friday, speaking to reporters by satellite from England.

Previously, Fox had announced the prize was a $5 million record contract. But Cowell said there will be a cash payment as well as recording expenses provided. He didn’t specify the value of the contract with Syco, a joint venture between Sony Music and Cowell.

Photo: AP Photo
In this June 6, 2010 file photo, British music mogul Simon Cowell attends the British Academy Television Awards in London.

Cowell, a former “American Idol” judge, is bringing his U.K.-born show to Fox in September. Unlike “Idol,” the contest is open to both solo singers and groups and has a lower minimum age of 12 and no upper age limit. Like “Idol,” Cowell will be joined by Paula Abdul as a judge.

Others on the panel are Nicole Scherzinger, a former member of The Pussycat Dolls, and record executive Antonio “L.A.” Reid. Steve Jones, a British TV personality, is the host.

Scherzinger, who was to share host duties with Jones, replaced British pop star Cheryl Cole as a judge when Cowell and other producers had second thoughts about Cole joining the U.S. series.

Cowell said he tried to return Cole to her judging role on the U.K. “X Factor,” believing she’d be more comfortable there, but the deal fell apart. When he was asked whether Cole was dumped because she and Abdul didn’t get along, Cowell jumped at the opportunity to revisit his bickering past with his former “Idol” colleague.

“If it was a question of not getting along with Paula, then I wouldn’t be on the show,” he said.

Mariah Carey has been enthusiastic about “X Factor” but “selfishly got pregnant and didn’t end up as a judge,” Cowell said. The pop star, who is married to “America’s Got Talent” host Nick Cannon and gave birth to twins in April, is being courted to participate in the show, Cowell said, but didn’t provide details.

Cowell’s trademark sarcasm played big with Fox entertainment chief Kevin Reilly, who spoke to reporters after the “X Factor” Q&A session with the Television Critics Association.

Reilly referred admiringly to “the dark charm of that man,” adding, “You can’t resist him.”

Cowell said that “X Factor” differs markedly from “American Idol,” which will continue airing on Fox from January to May. “The X Factor” is produced by Cowell’s Syco Television and FremantleMedia North America, which is a producer of “American Idol.”

“We see this as a game changer” with different rules and a goal of turning someone into a star, Cowell said. And he’s aiming to make “X Factor” America’s top-rated show.

The goal is never “the silver medal. You want to be No. 1, and over the next few months we’re going to throw everything at this to make this the best show on TV,” he said.

The Pepsi commercial deal will give the “X Factor” winner visibility during the Super Bowl next February on NBC. Known as advertising’s biggest showcase, the football championship garnered a record 111 million viewers when it aired on Fox this year, according to Nielsen.

PepsiCo Inc., a longtime sponsor of the Super Bowl telecast, has previously featured pop stars including Michael Jackson, Madonna and Britney Spears in commercials.