Simon Cowell will quit American Idol after this season, but will judge his X Factor in 2011

American Idol 9 is Simon Cowell’s last season with the show, he just told TV critics, although he will judge The X Factor, a show he owns, when it debuts in fall of 2011. Fox will continue to air American Idol in the spring, and probably move So You Think You Can Dance in the summer, giving the network a competition series year-round.

Simon told TV critics a few minutes ago that “we reached an agreement formally about half past 10 this morning. That is the absolute truth,” and then signed the contract on stage. “X Factor will launch in American in 2011 with me judging the show and executive producing the show, and because of that, this will be my last serason on American Idol this year,” he said.

Simon said “I was offered a lot of money to stay on” but left for a new “challenge.” He said, “I want to leave Idol this year bigger and better than it’s been before.” Earlier, he said, “We did talk about me staying on both shows,” but “it just was impossible,” since he’s also doing the UK version of X Factor. “America needs a second show, a different type of show.”

As to who will join him as a judge, Simon said, “We will make an announcement very soon as to who the judges are going to be.” Asked specifically about Paula Abdul, he said, “I adore Paula. Whatever happens, I will be working with her in some capacity, because I miss her.”

Can Fox really air two shows that are so similar, especially considering that X Factor replaced Pop Idol in the UK? Fox executive Peter Rice said that he thinks viewers will see “different shows rather than two seasons of the same show.” Simon explained the differences, saying that on The X Factor, “auditions are done live,” “the age range is likely to go as low as 14, and could go lower than that; there’s no upper age limit,” “[singing] groups can enter,” “the judges mentor a selection of contestants,” and “the judge is judged as well as the singer.”

As Richard Rushfield reports in The Daily Beast today, Simon created the new show and left Pop Idol behind because Simon realized that “the control, the power, the ownership of the show, all resided with others, including his old chum [Simon] Fuller.” So he created X Factor, “a show designed to make Idol look low-key and sedate–it had heavy emphasis on fights, backstage drama and public humiliation. Where Idol, beneath the glitz, retains an almost old-fashioned focus on the stories of young dreamers seeking their shot through song.”

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.