[UPDATE: Simon Cowell just revealed that the $5 million wining prize will be a cash prize paid out over 5 years. The prize is not a $5 million dollar recording contract, that will be separate. They will also be providing financial support to help the winner manage their money.]
The original UK sing-off defined The X Factor as that special something that makes a talented singer a star. For the American version, that special something may be nothing less than the largest prize ever awarded on television.
After The X Factor's Simon Cowell-heavy promo during the Super Bowl last night, Fox announced additional details about the franchise's US invasion. First, the winner of the first season is guaranteed a five million dollar record deal with Sony Music and Cowell. The prize dwarfs the initial earnings of both American Idol winners ($1 million) and winners of the UK version of the show (£1 million, around 1.6 million US dollars), making it the largest assured prize in television history. Auditions for The X Factor begin March 27th in Los Angeles, and will continue in New York, Chicago, Dallas, Seattle and Miami.
If you think that The X Factor sounds a lot like American Idol and its UK progenitor Pop Idol, you're somewhat correct - although The X Factor is a better formatted show overall. Instead of the typical talent showcase, The X Factor is set up to allow the judges to have more of a role in the series. Each judge will receive their own group of contestants whom they will mentor through the season. Additionally, each judge will choose the songs for their contestants to sing, help figure out each week's choreography and decide on the set design for their singers performances. When it comes to voting acts off, the public will be able to vote on who proceeds in the competition, but the judges will ultimately decided which contestant from the bottom two leaves the show.
The X-Factor began in the UK when Simon Cowell quit judging Pop Idol in 2003 in order to begin a new show to which he owned the distribution rights. He continued to judge American Idol until last year, and will switch to The X Factor this fall. For its latest season, American Idol replaced Cowell with rock legend Stephen Tyler and pop singer Jennifer Lopez, in an attempt to preserve viewership. Despite declining ratings over the last two seasons, the show remains the most-watched program in the U.S.
Aside from Cowell's abusive star power and a monster recording deal, The X Factor will differentiate itself from American Idol by allowing contestants from the age of 12 upwards - American Idol is restricted to contestants between 15 and 28 years old. Additional judges have not been announced, though there is speculation that UK fan favorite Cheryl Cole will also jump to the new production.
You can see Fox's X Factor Super Bowl spot here.
The decision to air both American Idol and The X Factor on the same network seems odd, considering that the latter was direct a replacement for Pop Idol. But The X Factor will run in the fall while American Idol begins in the spring, allowing reality fans a steady dose of hopeful starlets from August or September through May of the following year. Even if a second show splits some of the audience, the steady viewership is likely to keep Fox's singing sensations on top of the reality TV game for at least a few more years.
The X Factor comes to Fox in the fall of 2011.
Source: TV Line