Record Labels

Universal Music to Award 'X Factor Israel' Winner With Global Record Deal

Aviv Geffen, Margalit Tzanani
Geffen: Ronen Fadida. Tzanani: Gabriel Baharlia.

(L-R) Aviv Geffen, Margalit Tzanani

Simon Cowell’s show will also select Israel’s contender for Eurovision 2022.

Universal Music Group and Simon Cowell’s Syco Entertainment will award an international recording deal to the winner of the upcoming season of The X Factor Israel, something never before done in the Israeli music market.

The high-profile collaboration with Israeli TV network Reshet 13 and multinational production companies Fremantle Media and Syco Entertainment, comes less than a year after UMG opened its first-ever office in Israel.

The recording deal is the latest announcement leading to the relaunch this fall of The X Factor Israel, which will feature a panel of judges to be presided over by music manager Cowell, who will travel to the holy land to record the show. Cowell previously served as the main judge on the original U.K. version of The X Factor, which has been on hiatus since December 2018, as well as The X Factor in the U.S., which aired on Fox for three seasons.

Artists discovered on Cowell’s television shows have sold more than 600 million records, and include such acts as One Direction, Fifth Harmony, Leona Lewis and Susan Boyle.

“The belief in the talent and the market is why we set up our own Universal Music entity in Israel and why UMG was the first major global music company to do so in Israel,” Yoram Mokady, Universal Music Israel’s Managing Director, tells Billboard. “This will help the next generation of Israeli music talent to reach audiences around the world.”

Last month, the Israeli Public Broadcasting Corporation announced that The X Factor Israel will serve as the preliminary competition to determine the country’s representative for the 2022 Eurovision Song Contest, the annual European music event which draws about 200 million viewers worldwide. Tel Aviv hosted the previous Eurovision in May 2019.

Alongside Cowell, the judging panel will be comprised of three major Israeli artists he handpicked: singer-songwriter Aviv Geffen (who heads alt-rock group Blackfield with Porcupine Tree’s Steven Wilson), Mizrahi singer Margalit Tzan’ani and electropop musician Netta Barzilai, who won Eurovision in 2018 after being discovered on an Israeli reality TV music competition show.

“While Netta’s win and the success of Eurovision 2019 reignited hype and interest in the brand, this new recording deal prize further validates the power of music competition shows,” says Ami Glam, Reshet 13 COO.

Reshet 13 is keeping most details of the contest under wraps, saying only that the prospect of an international recording contract with UMG is generating a substantial amount of online audition applications. In the past, the show awarded winners a local recording contract and talent management agreement. The season will play out in time to meet the European Broadcasting Union’s annual deadline of February-March 2022 for all countries to designate their Eurovision representatives.

Mokady, formerly vice president of Content for cable Provider HOT, which sold formats such as In Treatment and Euphoria to HBO, is hoping to replicate some of the success Israeli writers, directors and actors have found by being discovered locally and then going on to have international careers. “The same path needs to be taken in music also,” he says.