On the heels of ITV’s announcement that The X Factor creator Simon Cowell will be returning to the UK edition as a judge this year, Fox has announced that the U.S. version of the singing competition will not be renewed for a fourth season. “I’ve had a fantastic time over the last 12 years, both on The X Factor and American Idol,” Cowell said. “And apart from being lucky enough to find some amazing talent on the shows, I have always had an incredible welcome from the American public (most of the time!). Last year, for a number of reasons, I had to make a decision to return to the UK version of The X Factor in 2014. So for now, I’m back to the UK and I want to thank Fox for being an incredible partner and I also want to thank everybody who has supported my shows. America, I’ll see you soon!”
Cowell is not departing American television completely, he still executive produces NBC’s summer staple America’s Got Talent, but his on-screen presence in the U.S. will be taking a break. The cancellation decision comes after a dismal third cycle for X Factor on Fox, which was down double-digits from Season 2. Fox chairman Kevin Reilly praised Cowell, pointing to his decision to leave the judging table as reason for the axing. “To all of us at Fox, Simon is more than one of the most prolific TV personalities of our time — he’s part of our family. Unfortunately, there is no X Factor USA without Simon Cowell, but we understand and support his decision to focus on the international formats and on the next phase of his personal life. We wish him the very best, and it’s our sincere hope that we work together again soon.”
Despite X Factor’s great success in the UK where it pushed out American Idol counterpart Pop Idol, the show never took hold in the U.S. Starting with the ill-advised Cowell pre-launch boasting that his show would easily draw 20 million viewers and outrate Idol, X Factor became known for perpetual judging drama, from the botched hiring and firing of Cheryl Cole in Season 1 to the revolving door of judges who didn’t stick. In the end, the ratings were just too low to sustain the expensive production. Still, as recently as December, Cowell was pretty confident that there will be a fourth season of X Factor on Fox. “The show will be back next season,” he told Deadline, hinting that he “might have a different kind of role.” Fox boss Kevin Reilly during TCA was less confident, stressing that no decision had been made — though he hinted the show may continue in some form. “The show definitely underperformed this year, ratings are not what we wanted, but X Factor still is one of the most successful brands in the world, and the No. 1 and No. 2 show in many markets,” he said.
Fox will not be caught unprepared following X Factor‘s cancellation. The network has been ramping up scripted development in anticipation of a possible end of X Factor, which fills a big chunk of the network’s fall schedule.