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OTRC: Simon Cowell's 'The X Factor' to offer $5 million prize

Simon Cowell turns 53 on Oct. 7, 2012. The television producer and entrepreneur is known for his as the snarky judge on 'American Idol,' and more recently for his own show 'The X Factor.'Pictured: Simon Cowell appears in a promotional photo for the FOX series 'The X Factor.' (Ian Derry / FOX)

Simon Cowell's new talent series, "The X Factor," will award its first winner a $5 million record deal, FOX says.

Champions of "American Idol," the hit reality show he once judged, also receive recording contracts. Kelly Clarkson, who won the first season in 2002 and is now a top-selling pop artist, was reportedly given one that was worth about $1 million.

Spokespeople for FOX, which airs both shows, had no immediate comment on the value of a current prize for an "American Idol" winner.

Auditions for "The X Factor," which is based on a UK series that Cowell had created, are set to begin on March 27 and will take place in Los Angeles, New York, Miami, Chicago, Dallas, New Jersey and Seattle. Solo singers and vocal groups age 12 and over are allowed to compete. Contestants of "American Idol" must be aged 15 to 28.

"I like the idea that a 12-year-old on this show can compete with an older singer and a singing group," Cowell, who will be a judge on "The X Factor," said in a statement provided by FOX. "I've never believed there should be a cut-off age for talent, and we are going to put our money where our mouths are with the $5 million recording contract. I'm doing this show in America because I genuinely believe we can find a superstar."

"The X Factor" is set to debut in September. The record contract the "X Factor" winner will receive will be given by Syco, a joint venture between Sony Music and Cowell.

Sony Music has produced albums by "American Idol" finalist Adam Lambert, Michael Jackson, Christina Aguilera, Bruce Springsteen, soundtracks for the FOX musical comedy series "Glee," the late Elvis Presley and former "Britain's Got Talent" finalist-turned YouTube sensation-turned contemporary music star Susan Boyle.

Cowell, a 51-year-old British music executive, was known as the acerbic judge on "American Idol," based on the UK series "Pop Idol," from its debut to 2010, when he left to launch "The X Factor." He began serving as a judge on the UK version of "The X Factor" in 2004. One of the show's winners, Leona Lewis, is now an international pop star.

"American Idol" underwent a series shakeup last season amid declining ratings. Aside from Cowell's exit, judges Ellen DeGeneres and Kara DioGuardi also left the show, newcomers Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler were brought in, Nigel Lythgoe returned as executive producer and the minimum age of eligible contestants was lowered from 16 to 15.

Ratings for the season 10 premiere and second episode of "American Idol" in January were lower than their corresponding shows last year. However, the show has dominated its timeslots throughout the past few weeks. The host and judges for "The X Factor" are set to be unveiled during the next few weeks, FOX said.

Paula Abdul, who served as an "American Idol" judge between 2002 and 2009, and DioGuardi, both host new talent programs. Abdul's dance contest show "Live to Dance" debuted in early January in CBS but its ratings have declined amid the premiere of "American Idol," which airs one of its two weekly episodes on the same night. Its finale airs on Wednesday and the winner - a group or individual - is set to win $500,000.

DioGuardi is set to co-host a songwriting competition series with singer Jewel. The show, whose name has changed from "Going Platinum" to "Platinum Hit," is set to debut on the cable network Bravo in the summer. It's grand prize? A publishing deal with Sony and with BMI Songwriters, The Writing Camp, a recording deal with RCA/Jive and $100,000.

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