SIMON Cowell has pulled the plug on filming of The X Factor this year as part of a major overhaul which could signal the end of contestants auditioning to find fame.
The TV mogul’s team were set to begin work on the latest series this week – but staff were left stunned when their contracts were cancelled and shooting was halted.
And now The Sun can reveal show bosses are looking at replacing this year’s singing contest with a celebrity editions or an “all-star” version of former favourites in a bid to revitalise the struggling franchise.
Simon is understood to be the driving force behind the shock move, and is currently in the process of convincing top ITV executives to run with his new idea after a ratings slide in recent years.
A TV insider said: “Simon is determined not to see The X Factor die slowly – he wants to stop the bleed before it gets too late and is happy to take drastic action.
“He knows everything has a lifespan in showbiz so the only way to stop that is to totally overhaul things and give the viewers something new and very different.
“It’s still early days in the process and Simon’s contract with ITV means there will definitely still be a show this year.
“X Factor is huge for ITV – it is their biggest show for advertising revenue and dominates their weekend schedules for half the year, so nobody wants to lose it but Simon hopes it will be almost unrecognisable by the time it returns.”
The show is still expected to feature a panel of judges but it remains unclear whether last year’s line-up of Robbie Williams and wife Ayda and Louis Tomlinson will return alongside Cowell.
SyCo’s current contract with ITV expires at the end of 2019 but Simon, 59, remains confident that a new deal will be struck to keep a version of the show on air for at least three more years.
He told The Sun last November: “We could probably do three years or five years. It makes a lot of money.
“We got to a point years ago where we were able to compete with Strictly because there was that huge audience.
“We’re losing people now but, fortunately, this year the young audience has grown and advertisers and sponsors want that income.”
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Since its launch 15 years ago, the show has produced a string of internationally successful acts, including One Direction, Olly Murs and Little Mix.
But in recent years it has struggled in the ratings battle with rival Strictly Come Dancing and its audience has fallen every year since 2010, when average of 14.1 million tuning in.
Some 17.7 million people saw Matt Cardle crowned the winner in The X Factor final in 2010, but last year the number was just 7.5 million to see Dalton Harris win the title.
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