Now a 12-year-old with the X Factor could win $5m in cash
IT SAYS a lot about us that, according to the experts on these matters, the only TV that encourages families to sit down together in any great numbers any more is the reality talent show.
That's probably bad news for society as a whole, but very good news for Simon Cowell as he prepares to unveil X Factor in the U.S.
Cowell's invested heavily in the American version of X Factor, throwing most of his eggs in one basket by quitting X Factor in the UK, the show he created, and giving up his role of judge on American Idol.
X factor U.S.A. costs over €2m an episode to stage, making it the most expensive TV show of its kind. Cowell and his producers have managed to rope in some high-level sponsors for the first American season, notably Pepsi, Chevrolet and Sony, limiting his and Fox television's financial risk if the series flops.
This is highly unilikely, of course. Simon Cowell has a faultless track record with this type of TV, and he's dangling a very big carrot to persuade undiscovered American talent to try out for boot camp.
The winner will get the ' largest guaranteed prize in television history'. Here, the word 'guaranteed' is important because - unlike X Factor in the UK - the $5 million (€3.6m) prize is paid in cash, in five annual instalments, on top of the lucrative recording deal.
'Just to be clear, this isn't a dressed-up $5 million, this is a guaranteed $5 million payable to the winner. The recording, marketing, and video costs are completely separate to that. It will be paid over five years at $1 million a year,' says Cowell, who is determined to end up with a surefire recording superstar at the end of the process.
Another difference between X Facor UK and the U.S. version is the age limits.
In Britain participants must be 16 or over; in the States children as young as 12 can take part. After that, it's the usual X Factor format with four categories (girls 12 to 30, boys 12 to 30, individuals over 30, and groups), one of which is assigned to each judge, or 'mentor'.
Cowell is joined on the judging panel at X Factor America by his former American Idol colleague Paula Abdul; Grammy-winning record company executive, songwriter and producer L.A. Reid; and former Pussycat Dolls singer Nicole Sherzinger who was initially supposed to co-host the series, but joined the judges after the firing/resignation of Cheryl Cole (depending on which version of events you believe).
Reid's inclusion as a judge is significant as - having guided the careers of Justin Bieber, Avril Lavigne, Rihanna, Kanye West, Pink and Mariah Carey, he has a highly-tuned star potential radar. Couple this with Cowell's profile and instinct, and it's hard to see how X Factor could possibly fail in the U.S. X Factor USA airs in America on Wednesday of this week, and comes to our screens on Thursday (ITV2, 8 p.m.) and Friday (TV3, ITV2, 9 p.m.).