POWER MOVE: One Direction -- assembled on Cowell’s U.K. “X Factor” -- had two 2012 albums with sales of more than 1 million.
THE RUNDOWN: The success of One Direction, the English/Irish boy band assembled on the U.K. version of Cowell’s singing competition “The X Factor,” supersedes the misfires from the U.S. edition of the show. In December, One Direction -- signed to Cowell’s Syco and Columbia -- became the first act since 2005 to release two new albums with sales of more than 1 million units in a calendar year. The group’s second set, Take Me Home, sold 540,000 copies its first week, according to Nielsen SoundScan, the third-largest debut of last year.
Cowell hoped “The X Factor” would create scores of new international stars, and for a brief moment it appeared One Direction might herald a British invasion of show-generated acts. However, U.K. performers Cher Lloyd, Rebecca Ferguson and Olly Murs have so far failed to duplicate their strong run of U.K. hits stateside.
Indeed, U.S. “X Factor” first-season victor Melanie Amaro has yet to release a full album, and each of her singles failed to take off. But the second-season winner, country act Tate Stevens, will put out an album through Syco/RCA Nashville, and Syco also scooped up third- and fourth-place U.S. winners Fifth Harmony and Emblem 3. Teen contestant Ella Henderson, who was voted off the U.K. show late last year in a surprise upset, signed a label deal with Sony and Syco.
“What we had to prove to the whole industry is that this is a process you can trust,” Cowell told Billboard as “The X Factor” began its second U.S. season on Fox. “If we use the time on the show to mentor you properly and help you become a proper recording artist, you can compete with the biggest artists around the world. It takes years to develop that trust, and we are getting a bit better at it now.”
Overall, the show’s U.S. ratings were down from its first season, but still decent enough to be renewed for a third. A highly touted experiment with Britney Spears as a second-season mentor failed, and Epic chairman Antonio “L.A.” Reid (No. 40 ) will not return for a third season, leaving at least two new judging seats open.
During the week of his show’s December finale, Cowell said his main goal was to attract younger audiences than other competition shows. But rating comparisons among “The X Factor,” “The Voice” and “American Idol” can be difficult, since the shows rarely compete head-to-head, and each has a different schedule.
During the week of its finale, “The X Factor” helped push Fox to No. 1 among teens, and also quadrupled its social media comments during the season -- notching 522,000 comments per episode, according to Bluefin Labs -- all numbers touted by Cowell and company to prove the show’s ability to reach young viewers.