american idol logoJournalist Diane Haithman is covering the Television Critics Association confab for Deadline Hollywood.)

Simon Cowell was a surprise guest at the Television Critics Association’s Fox confab today. He just walked out to announce himself that the UK’s huge hit talent search show The X Factor will launch in the U.S. in Fall 2011. But, way more importantly, he said this will be his last season on American Idol. “There’s been a lot of speculation partly because we didn’t have an agreement. We reached an agreement at half past 10 this morning. Where we have come to is X Factor will launch at 11 in 2011 with me judging and producing the show. So this will be my last season on American Idol.” With that, Peter Rice played showman and trotted out Cowell’s supposed contract. “And so we can bring a little drama to it, Simon is going to sign his agreement here. In about 10 seconds, there can be no speculation.” Cowell went to the podium and indeed signed his new pact. Now there will be endless speculation whether American Idol, hose ratings have been smaller and smaller, and whose audiences have been greyer and greyer, can continue just as successfully without its judging superstar.

The X Factor is produced by Syco, the global music, television and film production joint venture between Simon Cowell and Sony Music Entertainment. Syco Television produces the BAFTA Award-winning show which has topped the charts in Europe and in the UK, where Cowell continues to serve as both executive producer and judge. Syco Television is also the owner of the Got Talent television format. Versions of both The X Factor and Got Talent are co-produced by Syco and shown in more than 40 countries. The X Factor 2009 in the UK reached audiences of 20 million (60% audience share), and in Denmark, the audience share reached a record high of 80%. Cowell also executive produces America’s Got Talent and judges and produces Britain’s Got Talent, which in 2009 launched the global singing career of Susan Boyle. Her debut Syco album sold over 8 million units in six weeks, making it the world’s biggest-selling album of 2009 and the fastest-selling album in history. Cowell has worked with artists selling more than 180 million albums and delivering more than 150 No. 1 records. In 2009, Cowell was named No. 1 in Hollywood Reporter’s Top 50 Most Powerful in Reality TV and one of Entertainment Weekly’s Top Entertainers of the Year.

The X Factor will be produced by Syco Television and FremantleMedia North America. It is currently shown in 17 countries worldwide with a global audience of more than 500 million, and is the No. 1 TV entertainment format in Europe. Cowell will continue to serve as both executive producer and judge on the U.K. version. The X Factor format is owned by Syco, a global music, television and film production joint venture between Cowell and Sony Music Entertainment.

“I’m thrilled that we have por a date on the launch of the U.S. version of THE X FACTOR, and delighted to be continuing to work with FOX,” said Cowell. “We have a fantastic relationship, a great team and are all very excited about this.”

Mike Darnell, President of Alternative Entertainment, Fox Broadcasting Company, said, “We have had a very successful relationship with Simon Cowell for many years, and we’re absolutely delighted to continue our relationship with him. THE X FACTOR has been a massive success around the world, and we can’t wait to bring it to the U.S. in 2011.”

“THE X FACTOR has enjoyed an unparalleled success in its U.K. home market and globally,” said Cecile Frot-Coutaz, CEO of FremantleMedia North America. “We are truly excited to bring it to the U.S. and look forward to building another entertainment franchise in the marketplace.”