Simon Cowell officially leaving 'American Idol,' launching 'X Factor'

simon-cowell-american-idol-320-2.jpg Simon Cowell has officially signed on with "X Factor" and will say good-bye to "American Idol" after this season.

At the TCA Press Tour FOX executive session Monday (Jan. 11), Simon Cowell signed his "X Factor" contract in front of a room full of television critics and told them that this is his last season on "Idol."

"The X Factor" to launch FOX in the fall of 2011. Cowell says, "I'm thrilled that we have put a date on the launch of the U.S. version of 'The X Factor,' and delighted to be continuing to work with FOX. We have a fantastic relationship, a great team and are all very excited about this."

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

Peter Rice, a FOX executive, says that FOX is committed to both shows and that while "Simon is irreplaceable," it is up to FOX to keep the energy up. Cowell says he wouldn't have jumped to "X Factor" if he didn't think it could co-exist with "Idol" and cites the U.K. supporting both "X Factor" and "Britain's Got Talent."

While it is true that the U.K. supports both shows, here in the U.S. we will have all three shows come 2011. Can the American viewing public support three live talent programs, especially when shows like "The X Factor" and "America's Got Talent" turn into singing competitions anyway?

Maybe it will become a moot point -- can "American Idol" even survive without Cowell helming the judges' table? 55% of Zap2it Readers say absolutely not and another 34% say the show won't be the same without him.

Will former "American Idol" judge Paula Abdul have a place on "The X Factor?" Cowell says that he adores Paula and that "whatever else happens, I will be working with her in some capacity."

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FOX executive session press tour live blog
Should "Idol" go on without Simon Cowell?

Photo credit: FOX