“I think he should have come to me with it,” the media mogul told ET’s Denny Directo at a live taping of America’s Got Talent on Tuesday.
Malik, 23, will be an executive producer on the show, Boys, which will follow the ups and downs of being in a famous boy band. He will be working with Law & Order creator Dick Wolf and Universal Television.
“Nothing surprises me anymore,” Cowell said of the announcement.
Cowell formed One Direction on the U.K. show X Factor, and his Syco Records label released all five of their hit albums.
“I do actually believe that when they’ve got these ideas, bearing in mind where we started, they should actually come to me,” he said Tuesday.
Malik left One Direction in 2015. In March, he released a solo album, “Mind of Mine,” which hit No. 1 on the Billboard Top 200, and is the best-performing debut album so far this year.
Plus: A Boy Band ‘Expert’ Talks One Direction