In Billboard Interview, Says Paula Abdul Made a 'Big Mistake' in Cutting Intensity
As if a $5 million cash prize, a recording contract and a spot in a Pepsi commercial is not enough, Simon Cowell says "The X Factor" may be adding to the bounty that will be awarded on Dec. 22.
"We have to start to thinking about the record, but it may be more than that -- a TV show as well," Cowell told Billboard after Wednesday night's broadcast of the final five performers. "We can use this momentum to get attention, so depending on which contestant wins, on the final night we may announce more than the cash and contract as interest has grown for certain contestants."
Seated in his custom trailer on the CBS lot in Los Angeles, Cowell explained the approach he expects to take with the winner's album, ongoing plans for the Fox show's finale and the one group Paula Abdul could have kept to stay in the competition. During the interview, Cowell said a separate meeting was taking place to line up certain elements in the final telecast of season one and that details are being decided on a daily basis.
"It's always last second with these shows and we want to go out on a bang," Cowell notes. "We're literally making it up as we go along."
Playing by the seat of their pants backfired on producers this week when a planned Pepsi Challenge for Wednesday night's show had to be postponed. Viewers were asked to go online and chose between three songs for each singer. The person in charge of the tallies failed to notice that the order of the songs did not correspond with the total votes and presented the first song listed as the winner to each contestant. Deep into rehearsals, a producer noticed that the songs being rehearsed were not the tunes with the most votes.
"When you make reality TV, that's a chance you take," he says. "There are mistakes. The good thing is we can come back next week with the Pepsi Challenge."
One part that Cowell says is not left to chance are the release dates for albums from "X Factor" finalists in the U.K. this year. Winner Matt Cardle and runner-ups Rebecca Ferguson and One Direction released albums in October, November and December.
"I think we've gotten better at this and we made a real conscious effort with the process," he says. "You see this paying off now with Rebecca Ferguson and One Direction," which he predicts will be "massive in America. So (the show) did its job, which is getting good contestants, but also turning them into worldwide pop stars."
As for the States, Cowell is less sure of whether to go quickly, as Universal did with "American Idol" winner Scotty McCreery, or wait. "I don't know what the answer is -- it really depends on who wins. My experience, if you want the best out of these contestants, you need to spend a minimum of eight or nine months in the studio. The good thing is that, because you've got the show back, you're going to be able to launch them the following year.
"I'm pushing at this point to really build a fan base for these people," he says, noting that an album that underperforms "cannot happen more than once." The other objective is to cement "X Factor" as a show that creates stars.
Singers, he says, "have a lot of choices now. You've got to say to (potential contestants) it's really worth entering. I think we have something up our sleeve to make it different and you hope the next (season) is better than the first one. Hopefully in the future, people will say 'If I'm going to enter one show, I'm going to choose 'X Factor.'"
As for Abdul's error in judgment, Cowell says it was cutting loose the group Intensity. "If she had kept the kids group, I think they would still be around now. I think they had mass appeal and would have gotten the Tween market. I think she made a big mistake."