The United Kingdom is to get another TV talent show, with "Pop Idol" originator Simon Cowell playing a leading role.

The United Kingdom is to get another TV talent show, with "Pop Idol" originator Simon Cowell playing a leading role.

The show has the working title of "X Factor," and is being developed by British TV production company Thames Television and Syco, Cowell's joint venture production company with BMG U.K. & Ireland. Thames co-produced the original British "Pop Idol" format with London-based 19 TV Productions, owned by artist manager Simon Fuller.

Cowell is a long-time A&R executive at BMG Music in the United Kingdom. He achieved celebrity status on both sides of the Atlantic for his blunt comments as a judge on Britain's "Pop Idol" and on "American Idol".

National British commercial TV network ITV has struck a 2-year exclusive deal to carry the program, which is due to air from September 2004.

The new format calls for an extensive nationwide round of auditions, after which 120 contestants will be chosen and divided into three categories. Each category is assigned to "a key industry" judge who is tasked with developing his or her stable of artists. Cowell has been confirmed as one of the judges. The others have yet to be announced.

"Because of the diversity of the people we will be seeing this is the widest talent search ever undertaken on United Kingdom television," comments Richard Holloway, head of entertainment at Thames.

As with "Pop Idol," the winning artist will receive a recording contract with BMG. In a break from the norm, there will be no age limit, but contestants must be over the age of 16. Plans have yet to be announced for other markets.

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