Simon Cowell rumored to be leaving Fox's 'American Idol' competition show

By newsday
Saturday, December 19, 2009; C02

Are Simon Cowell and "American Idol" kaput after next season? Which may be another way of asking: Is Fox's "American Idol" over?

The Times of London reported this week that Cowell is poised to sign a deal early next year that could mean the end of his long "Idol" run after next season and the beginning of a run as host of the U.S. version of "The X Factor," expected to bow in 2011. (News Corp. owns both the Times and Fox.)

There have been reports in recent months that Cowell was considering his endgame at "Idol" and ready to walk after his contract ends in 2011 -- prompting speculation that Fox was ready to offer more than $100 million to keep him on the program another season.

In addition, Cowell has been curiously reticent on the hiring of Ellen DeGeneres as Paula Abdul's replacement, leading to speculation that he may be displeased with the hire -- and hence the show. Whether that's true, Abdul has long been considered a leading candidate to host "The X Factor," Cowell's British hit, when it comes to these shores.

The Times story said Cowell told Fox Broadcasting boss Peter Rice six weeks ago that he was considering stepping down as an "Idol" judge after this season. Of course, much can happen over six weeks.

Could Cowell judge both "Idol" and an American "X Factor"? Theoretically, yes, but judging two similar talent shows on the same network -- as well as "X Factor" for ITV in the U.K. -- wouldn't be just unprecedented but probably overkill as well. Plus, it could diminish two important franchises, and make the judge (as they say across the pond) barmy, too.

Reps for "American Idol" declined to comment.

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