It was a humbler Simon Cowell who took the stage at TCA’s summer press tour to tout Season 3 of “The X Factor” on FOX. Seated with new judges Kelly Rowland and Paulina Rubio, returning judge Demi Lovato and host Mario Lopez, Cowell addressed the lessons he’s learned so far and why he believes the show has finally found its groove.
“I felt like what we were doing was similar to what everyone else was doing,” Cowell says, reflecting on the second season (and, it was implied, the addition of Britney Spears to the panel). “I had this impatience to get on to Season 3 so we could do what I wanted to do.”
“It just felt like all the shows, the judging panels were beginning to look the same,” he adds. “[Finding new judges] was really about, ‘How passionate are you about doing this job properly? Working with the artists and finding a star in the end?'”
Cowell vouches for Rowland and Rubio’s judging credentials, having worked with Destiny’s Child member Rowland on the UK “X Factor” and noting Rubio (who recently judged Telemundo’s breakout adaptation of “The Voice” with kids, “La Voz Kids”) is someone he’s had his eye on for awhile.
Another change this season: contestants will no longer vie for a $5 million recording contract but instead a $1 million prize and record contract similar to “American Idol.”
“The idea was to raise attention,” Cowell says of the former $5 million prize. “This is gonna sound crazy coming from me, it was almost too much. We want artists who really want to be artists. The prize will be $1 million, which is still a lot of money. They’ll get a recording contract with Sony and become our number one priority.”
And the show’s ultimate goal of creating a new pop superstar remains the same. “You’re making a promise essentially to the contestants that you’re going to try to turn them into a real life artist after the show finishes,” Cowell says. “It’s not a guarantee but that’s your commitment. Otherwise it’s a game show. This is the most serious thing I do.”
Cowell realizes there’s stiff competition from NBC’s “The Voice,” but still believes the “X Factor” can find a larger audience. “You never take part with the idea you’re gonna lose,” Cowell says about the ratings race. “You have to be competitive, you have to make changes, listen to the fans and the viewers. I’d love to be number one. If you’ve got a good panel, good producers which we have, the format’s more fun and you get those one or two special contestants — that’s what it’s really about.”