Would "American Idol" judge Simon Cowell want to stay on the show if the series ever slipped from No. 1 in the Nielsen ratings?

Cowell bursts out laughing at the apparent obviousness of the answer.

"Absolutely not!" he says during an interview in his trailer before a taping of "Idol" at CBS Television City. "It's like running in the 100 meters and saying, 'I came in fifth'—then why bother?"

Of course, "Idol" doesn't appear in danger of relinquishing its status as a ratings juggernaut. Though the Fox show's audience has declined during the past few seasons, it still commands by far the largest audience in U.S. prime-time TV, averaging 25 million viewers per episode, according to Nielsen Media Research.

Still, Cowell says he hasn't decided what he'll do once his contract with Fox expires at the end of next season. One possibility: launch a U.S. version of his U.K. singing competition series "The X Factor." Cowell's production company Syco produces the show, which became a massive hit and supplanted "American Idol" predecessor "Pop Idol." The success of "Factor" was worrisome enough for Fox to forbid Cowell from introducing the show in the United States as part of his current "Idol" deal.

Between the continuing popularity of "Idol" and his ownership of "Factor," Cowell is sitting in the catbird's seat. In an interview, Cowell talked about "Idol" and other music-oriented reality shows.

Will producers continue making tweaks to the show's format next year?

You have to. The minute you start assuming that the audience is very happy to see the same show again, you're dead. Of course, they're going to complain, "Why did you change this? Why are you making these changes?" But the simple truth is, if the show looked now as it did in season one, it probably wouldn't be on the air now.

Is there too much product placement on the show?

I don't think so. I don't feel that we really are in the hands of the sponsors. Let's put it this way: We don't get any orders. So I've got a Coke cup in front of me. Who cares? I don't like Coca-Cola. The Coca-Cola moment [segment of the show] is a conversation. I don't feel it interferes with the flow of the show. Let's be honest—to make a show in this day and age, with the production values we have, it's got to a have a little bit of sponsorship and placement.

One thing "Idol" has never done is release the vote tallies. Would that add anything?

Click here for the full interview which includes Cowell's thoughts on creating another music reality show, why some of the reality shows fail and more.

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