After Underwhelming Freshman Run, Simon Cowell Shakes Things Up at 'The X Factor' | Adweek After Underwhelming Freshman Run, Simon Cowell Shakes Things Up at 'The X Factor' | Adweek
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'Idol' Hands Are the Devil’s Playthings

Simon axes ‘X Factor’ stars Paula, Nicole and Steve

Nicole Scherzinger, Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul, L.A. Reid and Steve Jones | Photo by Barry King/FilmMagic

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Producers of Fox’s freshman competition series The X Factor have cleaned house, cutting ties with judges Paula Abdul and Nicole Scherzinger as well as host Steve Jones.

Long rumored to be on the chopping block, Jones on Monday tweeted word of his departure to some 98,000 followers. “I won’t be hosting next season’s X Factor, which is a shame…but I can’t complain as I’ve had a great time. Good luck to everyone on the show,” Jones wrote, in a communiqué that was scrubbed for grammar, punctuation, etc.

Abdul followed suit, issuing a confirmation early Tuesday. “Yes, it’s true; I won’t be returning to The X Factor next season,” she said. “I’ve learned through my longevity in this industry that business decisions oftentimes override personal considerations. [X Factor creator/co-star] Simon [Cowell] and I, along with Fox and Fremantle, have been communicating about this for awhile now, and I have absolute understanding of the situation.”

The singer/choreographer went on to say that Cowell “is and will remain a dear friend,” before adding that she hopes the show succeeds in her absence.

Scherzinger was the last Factor regular to confirm her departure. At about 3:30 p.m. EST, the 33-year-old performer broke the news to her 1.2 million fans. “I wanted to let you know directly from me that it’s true I won’t be returning to The X Factor,” Scherzinger tweeted. She then added that she is looking forward “to an exciting year ahead and making great music and more!”

Originally signed to co-host the show, Scherzinger sidled into the judge’s panel as an 11th-hour replacement for British songbird Cheryl Cole. 

None of the cast changes were unforeseen. In recent weeks, producers had suggested that the show was ripe for a major restructuring. While The X Factor was a notable hit in an autumn of high-profile failures—the series premiered on Sept. 21 to 12.5 million viewers and a 4.4 rating in the 18-49 demo—the deliveries weren’t in line with Fox’s guarantees.

Clients were assured that The X Factor would average a 6.0 in the demo—sixth-tenths of a ratings point less than what Cowell’s American Idol is serving up thus far in its 11th season.

After dropping to a series-low 8.6 million viewers and a 2.6 rating on the night before Thanksgiving, The X Factor rebounded sharply. The Dec. 22 season finale was in line with the premiere, averaging 12.6 million viewers and a 3.8 rating in the dollar demo.

The X Factor is one of the most expensive buys on the dial. A 30-second spot on the Wednesday night show averaged nearly $325,000 a pop. A :30 on the Thursday results show was only slightly less costly ($280,000).

Once the smoke cleared Tuesday, Cowell sent forth a statement of his own, thanking the three personalities for being part of the program. “We had a lot of fun making the show together and…we found some real talent and stars,” Cowell said. He added that he expects to work with Abdul on another project in the near term.

That sentiment was echoed by Fox president of alternative entertainment Mike Darnell. “We love Paula,” Darnell said. “She is a remarkable talent, and we appreciate all of her contributions. We’re lucky that she is a part of the Fox family, and we look forward to working with her again soon.”

Cowell and Abdul worked together on American Idol for eight seasons. He and producer L.A. Reid will be the lone returning judges when Season 2 of The X Factor begins filming later this year.

If Fox overestimated The X Factor’s appeal, the show did much to boost the network’s overall demo deliveries. Thanks to Factor and bookend Idol, as well as the freshman comedy New Girl, Fox on the season is up 15 percent in the demo (3.3). Through the first 19 weeks of the 2011-12 campaign, Fox is leading CBS by two-tenths of a ratings point.