Moderator Welcome to THE X FACTOR Conference Call with Simon Cowell. We ask that you please limit yourself to one question and one follow-up. You may then re-queue and additional questions will be taken as time permits. As a reminder, this conference is being recorded.
J. Hudson THE X FACTOR’s first live show will air tomorrow, Wednesday, October 31st from 8:00 to 10:07 p.m. Eastern and Pacific and this is the first time the top 16 acts will perform live. Again, on Thursday, and our second live show, the top finalists will be revealed.
So, I’d like to turn the call over to Simon now who’s actually mentoring the Groups category this season. Simon, if you want to say hello and then we can begin questions.
S. Cowell Yes, just say hello, everyone. Thanks for taking the time to do this and I’ll answer as many questions as I can.
Moderator Our first question will come from Ingrid Sheaffer with US Weekly.
I. Sheaffer I just wanted to say the series has been so great so far this season and all the judges have been really great. I know a lot of people were skeptical about Britney as a judge. How have you found her as a judge and a mentor so far?
S. Cowell I’m glad we started with started with that question actually because I think she’s been a lot better than everybody thought. She’s very engaged. I was with her yesterday and she’s very, very into her contestants. She thinks she can win the competition.
I don’t know what she’s going to be like on a live show because we haven’t done one yet and it’s a very, very different setup than the auditions because at this point, the judges are competing with each other because we’re all mentoring our own acts. So, I don’t know how she’s going to cope with that part, but I think she’s excited about the shows. She has been, I think, a very, very good judge.
Moderator The question is from Liz Raftery with TVGuide.com.
L. Raftery I was just wondering not just for the Groups category, but just overall who do you think are the strongest contestants going into the round of 16?
S. Cowell Well, I mean the groups are a million times better than last year and I’ve had a lot of success with groups over the years. Some of them I could really, really see having a big future outside this competition and that will be witnessed tomorrow. I mean one group in particular are just off the charts tomorrow night.
The rest of the competition—obviously, Britney’s category, which is the Young Teens, are really, really strong and they’re going to be popular. They’re going to get a lot of votes. I think Debbie’s got a good category, but I’m not sure she’s got a winner. Maybe one girl has a shot; Janelle I think her name is, who I really, really like. She could be a little bit of a dark horse and Ellie, no chance whatsoever.
L. Raftery For your category specifically, I know you mentioned one group performs very well. Are you surprised at the chemistry that’s been fostered between the groups that were assembled by the judges?
S. Cowell Not really. I mean like I said, I’ve done this so many times. I mean the last time, I did it with one direction and my job is that you try and look for chemistry, encourage it when it happens, but these girls have done really, really well and they’ve become really popular over the last few weeks. So, I have a lot of confidence in them.
Moderator We’ll go next to Dominic Patten with Deadline Hollywood.
D. Patten Simon, I wanted to know if there was any consideration that occurred on the show as you guys go live of the recent hurricane on the East Coast and were you guys going to address that, or did you have anything to say about it?
S. Cowell Yes, I do actually. I mean somebody talked to me what affect it might have on the ratings, which I’ve got to be honest, I couldn’t care less. I mean all you care about when these hurricanes hit is that people are safe and that it blows over as quickly as possible. I’m certain we’ll address something on the show tomorrow.
D. Patten Do you have anything specifically that you would want to say people on the East Coast, or is there any moves to be made for people who will not be able to watch the shows this week because of power outages and cable outages?
S. Cowell Well, I don’t know specifically what technical details we can do. I mean I’m certain, as I said, that we will just have a shout out to people on that side of the coast to say, “Stay strong, be safe, and we hope that the storm blows off as quickly as possible,” but I don’t know what, like I said, we could do if there were some power outages. I mean they’ve been pretty good at this. Maybe FOX will show a repeat possibly in their area.
Moderator We have a question from Mary Gaffney with Buzzmedia.
M. Gaffney I know the contestants have to stay in a house and I was going to ask about some of the corky rules that I heard go on in the house.
S. Cowell The rules. You probably know more than I do.
M. Gaffney We can play a true or false. No biting?
S. Cowell Biting. That’s a new rule. I think there was a lot of biting last year. So, that was probably introduced this year.
M. Gaffney How about coasters much be used with dark drinks.
S. Cowell It sounds a little petty, but okay.
M. Gaffney No guests, no pool diving.
S. Cowell No pool diving. Well, they’re all going to break that rule.
M. Gaffney Making your own bed, no fireplace use.
S. Cowell No what?
M. Gaffney No using the fireplace.
S. Cowell No using the fireplace? When you rent a house to people—I’ve done that a number of times—you do get mad rules and a lot of them come from the owners. I think the guesting, I mean that’s fairly obvious what that means, is we want to keep everybody focused on the competition. Otherwise, I think they would run riot.
M. Gaffney Yes, absolutely.
S. Cowell I think they would and they’d all be biting each other in the pool.
M. Gaffney We wouldn’t want that. We wouldn’t them to stand on stage with bite marks all over themselves.
S. Cowell We don’t want that, no. I’d love to know who … that rule in by the way. I mean that is hysterical.
M. Gaffney Yes, there’s like a really long list of them. But aside from that, you feel like when they all stay in a house together they do become closer as a group when they have to perform?
S. Cowell Yes and no. I mean I think they all end up getting on each other’s nerves. Some people will bond; the others will do the opposite, but I think it’s easier for us to have them all in one place when we’re going up to mentor them. There are facilities there and it kind of works as a rehearsal room, but they just got to get on with it. If they don’t like each other, concentrate on the competition like I said and then after they leave the competition they can bite each other as long as they want.
Moderator Our next question is from Russ Weakland with HollywoodLife.com.
R. Weakland I was wondering how you feel Khloe is going to cope with her first set of days of hosting.
S. Cowell Oh, Khloe. Well, it’s been a problem because we brought the show forward a days. So, that’s one less day’s rehearsal. So, she’s going to have nerves of steel when she goes in there tomorrow, but my attitude is we could have prerecorded it, which I think would have made it boring. On live TV things do go wrong and that’s probably one of the reasons why we always go live. I kind of like to see the unpredictable and I quite like seeing people under pressure and just how they deal with it. You don’t want robots. You want human beings.
The meeting I had with her and Mario when very well. They seem to have good chemistry. She’s really looking forward to doing this; wants to prove a point and I think they’re going to be fun together.
R. Weakland Do you anticipate former contestants from last year like Josh and Melanie to make appearances this year and perform on the show?
S. Cowell Yes, a couple of them will over the next few weeks, definitely.
Moderator We go next to Mike Waco with Fox News Edge.
M. Waco Are you … the next couple of days of the contestants? Obviously, they perform; the 16 perform tomorrow and then is the responsibility of the judges to narrow it down or what are you guys going to be doing in the next couple of days?
S. Cowell Well, basically, you’re right – 16 people are going to perform on Wednesday and then at the top, on the Thursday show, we’re going to reveal which contestants are safe. The ones who aren’t safe are going to go into a series of sing-offs, one against one and then a number of them are going to get eliminated. I’m not going to say the exact numbers yet because we want to tell the contestants live on TV what’s going to happen.
M. Waco And then you guys will break down—each one of you guys will get a vote just like before?
S. Cowell Totally. I mean basically like we did with the sing-off at the end of the normal result shows, when it’s one against one. We’ll all have a vote. We probably won’t all agree, but we have to agree on this. Then whoever’s left will go into next Wednesday’s show to face the public vote for the first time.
M. Waco Will it be equal in each category, or that may vary?
S. Cowell That could vary.
Moderator We have a question from Claudia Cagan with E! News.
C. Cagan Now, you mentioned that our dear Khloe has a point to prove in being the cohost this season. Can you explain?
S. Cowell Yes. I saw quite a number of knocking articles saying, “What are you thinking? Why should she be a host?” I mean she’s had a lot of positive press, but I think she’s had her doubters. I think she wants to prove anyone who doubter her that she’s capable of doing the job.
I’ve got to tell you, and I don’t know her well, but when she came over to my house the other day, I mean she really has got a fun personality. I think she gets what her role is. I think she’s there to be a voice for the contestants and to have fun with it. When you want to go off script I mean I always think that’s more fun rather than someone just reading off a teleprompter or what we call an auto queue.
C. Cagan I think you’ll find that she speaks her mind.
S. Cowell You know what? I think you’re right and she certainly did the first time I met her. But, I encourage that. I like that. They’re there to have opinions and I think it was lacking last season. The host, he didn’t seem to have an opinion on any of the performances and I think it’s important with hosts that they are allowed to pitch in as well as the judges. If they disagree with the judges, they’re entitled to say something.
Moderator Our next question is from John Howard with Hollyscoop.
J. Howard I just wanted to get your comment on some of the critics are saying that singing competition shows are becoming more about the judges than the contestants. I don’t know if you have a comment about that.
S. Cowell Well, it shouldn’t. I mean these shows can only work on these live aspects if you’ve got good and engaging contestants. If it has to rely on the judges, you’ve got a real problem. I can remember the first year I did a show in America, I mean all I remember from that show was the fact that Kelly Clarkson won and that, to me, obviously was the most important part. Maybe in the early parts of the show, on the auditions, the judges have a little bit more to do, but when it comes to live shows, it’s 90% about the contestants.
As a viewer, you’ve got to believe that you’re watching someone who not only could win the competition, but potentially could be a star. That’s the exciting part about watching these live shows. Like I said, I’ve been down to some of the rehearsals. I think people are going to get blown away by the talent this year. It’s so much better than what we did last year.
J. Howard We have a lot of Britney fans in the office here. I was wondering if there were any plans for her to do any performances on the show.
S. Cowell Britney; I’m going to push as much as possible for her to do something on the final and I think she’ll probably do it.
Moderator Our next question is from Reg Seeton with Deadbolt.com.
R. Seeton Do you think the public holds the Group category to a different standard that makes it harder to mentor than a solo singer? How do you see it?
S. Cowell The funny thing is it just takes a while for the public to know the individuals because there’s a lot of them. And for some reason, Groups don’t come in with the same level of sort of sob stories as the solo artists. But, like I said, I think that is going to change this year.
The difficulty I’ve got with one group, Sister C, is that they find it really difficult to do interviews and they come over as a bit arrogant, but in real life they’re not. They’re actually very sweet girls, but I’ve told them, “If people don’t like you, no matter how well you sing, you’re not going to last long in a competition like this” because there is a likability factor when you’re on these shows and you’ve got to learn how to do it. You’ve got show who you really are and hope people like you because as singers, they’re really, really good and I want them to do well. But, that’s the problem. That is a good point to pick up on.
R. Seeton Can you talk a bit about why you wanted two hosts over one this year?
S. Cowell The very first show I ever did on TV was the British version of AMERICAN IDOL and we had two hosts. It was so much fun and I always think with two hosts, they just … to rely on. We’ve worked out—there’s so much talking one host has to do on these live shows in terms of voting information, sponsor information. So, we thought it be more fun for the viewer to split it up so you’re not hearing the same person talk and talk and talk, but we’re going to find out very soon whether it was a good idea or a terrible idea.
Moderator We’ll go next to Samara Mootoo with CTV eTalk.
S. Mootoo Just getting back to Khloe and Mario, you mentioned that you’re splitting up what they’ll be saying on the show. Will their other hosting duties also be split up, maybe see one of them backstage with the contestants?
S. Cowell Yes, where we think it’s appropriate and that could be particularly on the voting shows, but it might be more effective to have one backstage and one at the front. I do want to keep them together as much as possible through the show, particularly after a contestant’s performance. I think having two people there to kind of give you support is easier than one person. I think it will make each host braver knowing they’ve got someone to back them up as well. If they want to get into a … with us ….
S. Mootoo Oh, no, definitely. It was interesting about what you said about Steve Jones, about how he didn’t really have an opinion last year and with two hosts, hopefully they’ll both be able to express theirs. Was there anything else that Steve didn’t quite do right that you want to see Mario or Khloe do on the season?
S. Cowell Well, I suppose I see a host’s role to be a fan as well as a host. Otherwise, anyone can coming in and read out voting information. That’s what I’m looking for more than anything else is that they’re entitled to have their favorites and they’re there to stick up for the contestants that they think have been unfairly treated and just to have a more organic role I suppose than what you traditionally see on these shows. It’s what we’ve told them when we met and we’ll be encouraging them to do that. Most importantly, have fun.
Moderator Our next question will come from Chris Roof with VoiceofTV.com.
C. Roof I was just wondering a little bit more about what your thoughts on other teams were. Which team are you most nervous about? You said that Demi’s group is pretty strong. Which team are you most worried about?
S. Cowell Britney’s team. I think everybody in a way wanted that category because we have two or three kids in the category who are super, super talented this year. Britney, she got them and she was absolutely thrilled. From what I hear, because I actually haven’t heard them sing yet, she’s doing a pretty good job. I mean we’ll find out tomorrow whether that’s true or not because it’s her responsibility to choose the songs, give them confidence. I would say that’s the category every judge fears is going to probably do really well.
C. Roof Okay and then also, did you think any judges made a bad decision …? Was there somebody that you thought they should have kept that they sent home?
S. Cowell I know people were concerned about losing Jillian, and I think I know why was replaced by somebody else, because she was getting a little bit too gloomy. You’ve got choose people who can be entertainers. I kind of admire Demi for making that decision because she really liked her as a person, but she just went with her gut instinct.
I think everybody else—I think one guy we probably made a mistake on, we lost him at boot camp was Jeffery Goot and I think he would have been a much better older contestant than some of the ones we’ve chosen. That was probably the biggest mistake we make.
Moderator We’ll go next to Sammi Turano with TV Grapevine.
S. Turano I’ll just ask one question because I know there are other people on the line. Which job is harder for you—mentoring or judging?
S. Cowell Mentoring can be a nightmare because you’ve got so much responsibility to get it right and when it goes wrong, you have to take the brunt that it has been your fault the contestant is gone. So, yes, anyone can judge to be honest with you, but mentoring, choosing the right material, making sure their image is right, making sure they’re getting on and overseeing everything particularly at the beginning when you’ve got four acts is hard work. I mean it really is a lot of mental pressure.
It’s embarrassing on the night when you got it wrong. I mean it’s just the worst feeling because then you’re being judged. So, yes, mentoring is the hardest job.
Moderator We’ll go to Julia Wayne with Wetpaint Entertainment.
J. Wayne I had a question just because before when people had asked about who you wanted to host and you sort of implied, especially to Ellen, that you wanted Khloe. You also mentioned that you kind of didn’t want somebody who was like really host hosty, but then went with Mario Lopez, who is a pretty professional host.
S. Cowell That’s pretty observant of you. I was waiting for someone to pick that up.
J. Wayne I was wondering if it was a compromise of the network, or was it your goal all along to kind of balance Khloe with somebody else.
S. Cowell Well, there were a lot of people who tested and we went back on the test with Mario and Khloe. It was the network really who said it’s just too risky to put two people on a show who haven’t hosted before. What they felt was that Mario, he’s a really professional, safe pair of hands and Khloe, certainly in her first season, would need someone around her who has had a lot of experience. That’s why in the end we decided on those two. I mean Mario was always up there as one of the top candidates. Seeing them together, it was the right decision. They do seem to have a good chemistry.
J. Wayne Is there any truth at all to feuds between them?
S. Cowell Any feuds did you say?
J. Wayne Yes, between the two of them. There were rumors floating around on the Internet that there was a little feud between them already.
S. Cowell Well, both probably want more at times than the other. I mean that goes without saying. I don’t know specifically of what’s happened or if anything, but now you’ve asked, I’ll ask later on when I go down there.
Moderator Our next question is with Jamie Ruby with Scifivision.com.
J. Ruby So, you obviously don’t have a problem telling what you really think about the contestants, but what do you find the most difficulty?
S. Cowell What do you mean?
J. Ruby Just in general. I mean I know you said about mentoring, but is there something specific that on a whole you find most difficult about working on the show?
S. Cowell The time pressure where you’ve got to choose songs really, really quickly. When you’ve gone through one live show, one results show and then almost immediately the producers pounce on you and you’ve got to come up with material which is going to work the following week. It’s harder than you think because you’re always trying to create moments. I try and do it as if these were the records they would put out and their favor is in your hands. Like I said, if you get it wrong, it’s your responsibility.
When somebody you like—when I lost Drew last year from the competition who I liked because I chose a stupid song for her that particular week, you feel really bad afterwards. So, it’s not a nice feeling, but it’s a good feeling when you get it right and I think I’ve got it right this year.
J. Ruby Now that it’s coming up for the live, singing live and everything, do they get more nervous? What do you guys say to them?
S. Cowell They’re more excited now. I mean this is what they’ve been gearing up to, the live shows. When they walk out onto that set for the first time, I mean it’s a buzz because they’re really close to it, but this is what separates the men from the boys. I mean some people on the live shows rise; other people, you’ll see it, will falter. That’s the sign of a good artist or not, but the buzz, I have to say, which I’m feeling from the contestants right now just before we go live, it’s really exciting. They can’t wait to do it. They can’t wait to get out there.
Moderator We’ll go next to Sheri Blog with CTV.
S. Blog Now, last year, we saw some unpredictable moments with Astro and Rachel Crow, especially when she got eliminated. I’m sure it was as shocking for you to watch as it was for us. Are you better preparing the contestants this year for rejection, in particular, the younger ones?
S. Cowell We haven’t discussed rejection with them yet. It’s a little bit early. I’m sure Britney’s mentioned it, but no matter how much you say to someone, “Not everyone can win,” it’s heartbreaking to them when they lose. Rachel reacted that way because she genuinely in her heart believed that she’d already won the competition. So, she was just in total shock that she was eliminated so early. And Astro was just being a brat to be honest with you. We sorted it out and he was fine afterwards.
But, I try not to say too much, which is why make our shows live because I think you have to show melt downs and everything from these shows. If we prerecorded it and edited it out I think it would be quite boring.
Moderator We have time for just two more questions. The first will come from MJ Santilli with MJ’s Big Blog.
M. Santilli I was wondering if you are planning to do a wild card this year.
S. Cowell In the way that we did it last year I don’t think so. I think my gut feeling is there won’t be one this year. There was talk of it, but we’ve already got 16 contestants and that’s a lot. There’s nobody I feel as passionately about as I did with Melanie Amaro. It was just stupid that I didn’t put her through the first time. So, if I was a betting man I’d say there won’t be one this year.
Moderator Our final question will come from Daedrian McNaughton with Premier Guide Media.
D. McNaughton I just saw the strategy or the format of the show. I thought it was brilliant, the whole storytelling part of it. My question to you is last season on IDOL there was an invitation for the president to come on. Would you extend that invitation this year to sing or to perform in some way?
S. Cowell Definitely. I mean even duet I’d take.
D. McNaughton Even a what? I’m sorry.
S. Cowell A duet. They could both come on and do a duet together.
D. McNaughton That would be great.
S. Cowell Absolutely. They can make up their differences, sing a song together. Music is the great healer, as you know, and they will be very welcome any week to do that. That was a good question. Alternatively, we’ll just take one. Okay?
D. McNaughton Thank you.
Moderator Thank you and that does conclude our Q&A session.
S. Cowell Thank you, everybody. These are really good questions.
Moderator Jill, did you have any closing remarks?
J. Hudson I just want to thank everyone for joining us today and thank you, Simon and just a reminder that our first live performance show will air tonight from 8:00 to 10:07 p.m. Eastern and Pacific. Thanks so much.
S. Cowell Bye, everyone. I thank you again.
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