Simon Cowell brings 'X Factor' to America, leaving 'Idol' -- press tour live blog

simoncowell-320.jpgIs "The X Factor" coming to FOX? (Yes!) What about Conan O'Brien? (Not yet, anyway).

FOX executives Kevin Reilly and Peter Rice are about to face those questions and more at the Television Critics Association press tour.

We're live-blogging the executive press conference. Follow along with us.

Reilly and Rice are taking their time getting to the stage. We're a few minutes behind.

We're listening to the "Glee" soundtrack while we wait. The delay makes me wonder if they're dotting i's on some announcement or other.

OK, here we go: Whatcha got for us, guys?

Rice: We have a good reason for the delay, which we'll tell you about later. Now! Tell us now!

There are two "enormous" stories going around, and Rice promises us he'll get to that soon. But first, some prattle about the network's fall performance. We know -- you had a good fall in the demo.

Rice reiterates the "Glee" second-season pickup and the nationwide, televised search for new cast members. They love the way fans have interacted with the show.

Reilly says "there's not much more" they can tell us about Conan O'Brien: "We're in the 'wowee' mode right now." Late night is never off the agenda, he says, but they have to wait for Conan's decision. They have talked to Conan's people, mostly "commiserating," but that's it for now.

Rice says Cowell is "very passionate" about "X Factor" -- and he's here to talk about it. Sweet!

So that explains the delay.

Cowell: We reached an agreement on "X Factor" this morning, it launches in 2011 and this is his last season on "Idol." Big. Very big.

And in a room full of witnesses, Cowell signs his "X Factor" contract. FOX employees handing out press releases as we speak.

Cowell compares "Idol" to a football team -- when a good player retires, the team goes on. "I'm confident it will continue to be the No. 1 show."

Rice: We're committed to both "X Factor" and "Idol." "Simon is irreplaceable," but it's up to FOX to keep the energy up.

Cowell's dream "X Factor" judges: Not Victoria Beckham, "absolutely not." Audience laugh. "Not because I don't like her ..." Announcements of judges will come "fairly soon," along with information on auditions.

Cowell says he wouldn't have done "X Factor" here if he didn't think it could co-exist with "Idol." He makes a comparison to "X Factor" U.K. and "Britain's Got Talent," both of which had big seasons last year.

He likes the thrill of not knowing what's going to happen, as was the case with the first season of "American Idol." He believes in "X Factor" but knows anything can happen.

There's no upper age limit to "The X Factor," so in theory someone as old as 100 could try out -- "Which means Paula could audition," Cowell cracks.

Having "X Factor" on next year will likely mean "So You Think You Can Dance" will be a summer-only show.

Cowell suggests Ryan Seacrest take his place on "Idol" -- "so he can have another job then."

Everyone thought Cowell was negotiating when he said he'd leave at the end of his "Idol" contract, but that wasn't the case. He just wanted something new.

He hopes that because "The X Factor" has fewer rules regarding contestant qualifications, it will be able to find the American version of Susan Boyle. He also likes the possibility of having a 14-year-old competing in the finals against someone in the 40s or 50s.

The person with the biggest X factor right now? "Lady Gaga," Cowell says. "She's the most influential artist in the world. I'd love to find someone like her."

Rice: The reason we're making the announcement now is to give ourselves time to find a replacement for Cowell on "Idol." So he's not irreplaceable after all?

BTW, Hollywood week on "Idol" is this week. "I like the contestants this year." As opposed to not liking them before? "Maybe three years ago -- the Taylor year." Snap!

He thinks "America needs" a different type of show, and he's going to put his "absolute heart and soul" into it.

Paula Abdul? "I adore Paula," Cowell says. "Whatever else happens, I will be working with her in some capacity." So stay tuned.

And that's it for Cowell, who has to go back to work on "Idol." Reilly and Rice think that with it being Cowell's last season, the addition of Ellen DeGeneres and the fact that other veteran shows have grown this year, they're pretty optimistic about ratings prospects.

Moving on: Reilly says the network didn't know about problems with "Our Little Genius" until last week. Two producers communicated different things to contesants, and Mark Burnett was worried that if there were even a hint of impropriety, it's better to take it down and re-shoot.

Announcing Cowell's "Idol" departure now means FOX will have time to investigate any and all possibilities for the judging panel -- whether it's adding a new fourth judge or reworking the panel more extensively. Rice promises they won't try to find a "Simon clone."

Rice says he thinks "Idol" has a handle on the over-run times that plagued it for several weeks last season and hopes it doesn't happen again. So do "Glee" fans.

"Dollhouse" post-mortem: Reilly says the network aired all 13 episodes because they told Joss Whedon they would. "It was a good show," but that's that.

Question: Ellen DeGeneres said in an interview that she'd leave "Idol" if Cowell does. Rice, flatly: "I believe she was making a joke."

Reilly says FOX is pumping up its "anemic" comedy development for this season and is working on a plan to get new shows on the air and support them.

That's it, folks. We'll have more to say on the Cowell situation in the coming days, I'm sure.

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