Simon Cowell Near New Deal to Stay On "Idol," Import "X Factor"

Having already lost Paula Abdul, Fox isn't taking any chances when it comes to re-signing American Idol's star judge Simon Cowell, whose contract expires at year's end. Cowell is reportedly negotiating a new contract that will keep him on Idol for two more seasons, plus bring his hit U.K. talent competition The X Factor to the States. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the deal, which has not been finalized or signed, could net Cowell $50 million per season of Idol, plus an additional $50 million depending on The X Factor's success. Cowell has expressed interest in bringing The X Factor, which launched the career of its Season Three winner Leona Lewis, to the U.S.

Most important in the contract is that it locks up Cowell until 2011-2012, but the possible American version of The X Factor is also interesting, considering it would likely draw from the same talent pool and television audience as AI. The X Factor is generally recognized as the British equivalent of American Idol, but there are some subtle differences. For starters, the competitors are often split into groups. In X's Season Five, for example, there were four categories: Boys, Girls, Groups and Over 25s, with each subdivision featuring three acts for a total of 12 competitors. Other differences include the fact that, despite a public vote, the judges have more of a say in who is eliminated from the show, plus there's a sort of boot camp portion of the competition process.

Even though X hasn't even become a reality yet in the States, THR is already throwing around names for potential judges, including current X Factor judge and Girls Aloud star Cheryl Cole and, interestingly, former American Idol judge Paula Abdul. Abdul previously served as guest judge on the British X Factor's third season during the audition phase, so in addition to seven seasons of Idol, she has some X on her resume as well. It's unclear if Cowell, who has been a judge on X Factor for six seasons running, will repeat the role in the U.S. edition, if it were to happen.

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