Fox Cancels The X Factor

Simon Cowell series never really caught on

Simon Cowell’s latest attempt to salvage The X Factor has come to naught, as Fox on Friday said it has pulled the plug on the series. 

Acknowledging the end of his stateside tenancy, Cowell said he would return to the United Kingdom now that his U.S. follow-up to American Idol has been whacked after three underwhelming seasons.

“I’ve had a fantastic time over the last 12 years, both on The X Factor and American Idol,” said Cowell, by way of confirming the end of the series. “I want to thank Fox for being an incredible partner and I also want to thank everybody who has supported my shows. America, I’ll see you soon!” 

To say that Cowell overestimated the impact X Factor would have on American pop culture is to traffic in vast understatement. After crowing about how his new competition series would deliver at least 20 million viewers per week, Season 1 of Factor averaged nearly half that number (11.4 million).

Despite a high-profile reboot courtesy of new judges Britney Spears and Demi Lovato, Season 2 also failed to draw heat. The third and final run was a detriment to the network’s entire prime-time lineup, drawing just 5.96 million viewers and a 1.8 in the all-important adults 18-49 demo.

As the audience fell away, so did a number of blue chip sponsors. Inaugural backers Pepsi and General Motors last fall parted ways with the show.

Twenty-First Century Fox president and COO Chase Carey on Thursday told investors that, as was the case in recent cycles of American Idol, ratings for The X Factor had fallen “faster than we’d hoped.” But the writing had been on the wall for some time. Fox executives were less than pleased when Cowell seemed to try and force the network’s hand, telling reporters on a December conference call that Factor would “be back next season,” despite the fact that no decision had been made one way or the other.

That said, Fox isn’t exactly slamming the door on the English impresario.

“To all of us at Fox, Simon is more than one of the most prolific TV personalities of our time—he’s part of our family,” said Fox entertainment chairman Kevin Reilly, by way of acknowledging the show’s demise. “A consummate showman and partner, there’s no one more passionate or creative than Simon, and we feel so fortunate to have enjoyed such a wonderful, collaborative relationship with him over the past 12 years. Unfortunately, there is no X Factor without Simon Cowell, but we understand and support his decision to focus on the international formats.”