"American Idol" judge Simon Cowell has decided to quit the top-rated TV talent show when his contract ends in 2010, according to a report in British tabloid The Sun, which would deal a blow to the Fox network.
Cowell, 50, has been with the TV juggernaut since the start of "American Idol" in 2002 but his contract expires after the end of Season 9, which starts in January and ends in May 2010, and in the past he has hinted at being bored with his role.
His insults to tone-deaf singers are a key factor in luring viewers to the competition that over the past three years has seen its ratings slip, and this season already sees the departure of another original judge, popular Paula Abdul.
Cowell's brother Tony, who hosts a weekly radio podcast called "The Cowell Factor", said in a broadcast on Tuesday that Simon was preparing for his last season of "Idol".
"A press statement is being prepared which will confirm what everyone expected -- Simon will leave 'Idol' at the end of 2010 to concentrate on bringing the American version of 'The X Factor' to US TV in 2011," Tony Cowell claimed, according to Britain's Sun newspaper.
The Sun, like Fox television, is part of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp media empire. The podcast could not be found later on Tuesday. The Sun report said Tony Cowell had "blurted out the claim" and that the podcast had since been removed.
Cowell's publicist and the Fox network in Los Angeles, where "Idol" is produced, both said they had no comment on the reports. Cowell, who has his own record label and produces three other TV talent shows, hinted repeatedly earlier this year that he was growing bored with his stint on "Idol".
Abdul quit earlier this year, and she will be replaced on the upcoming season by talk show host Ellen DeGeneres.
While still America's most-watched TV show, "Idol" audiences slipped in 2009 to an average 26.3 million per twice weekly episode from a high of about 30.8 million in 2006.
Cowell, one of the biggest earners on U.S. television, spoke in a British magazine interview earlier this month of his plans to bring his own "The X Factor" British talent show to Las Vegas in a global pay-per-view Internet venture.
(Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)
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