Judge won’t budge

Cowell, Fox ink three-year pact for 'Idol'

“American Idol’s” Simon Cowell has finally found something he likes: Fox, which has sealed a three-year deal with the cranky judge to remain on the hit reality series.

As part of the deal, Cowell has launched a new production shingle, simcow ltd., which has sealed a first-look deal — and secured a series commitment — with the network.

“They offered me two things I couldn’t turn down,” Cowell said. “I couldn’t pass up the financial offer to do three more (editions of) ‘American Idol’ and the commitment to launch the TV production company. It wasn’t a patronizing deal to shut me up, it was a really good deal.”

Cowell said he planned to dabble in both scripted and nonscripted fare at simcow but hadn’t yet figured out his first order of business.

“It’s a slow process,” he said. “I’m a great believer in focusing on one project at a time and seeing it through.”

Fox Television Entertainment TV Group chairman Sandy Grushow personally rolled up his sleeves and negotiated the deal, along with business affairs exec Ira Kurgan and Cowell’s reps Alan Berger and Sam Fisher.

‘Unique voice’

“Simon Cowell has a unique voice and point of view that obviously resonates all over America,” Grushow said. “That means we’ll have to put up with him for years to come.”

Deal was made in time for Cowell to participate in the next round of “American Idol” auditions later this summer. Fellow judges Randy Jackson and Paula Abdul, as well as host Ryan Seacrest, are also locked up for the next several years.

With the judges locked up, it’s all the more likely “American Idol” will remain a Fox staple for the forseeable future. The net has a perpetual deal with “American Idol” producers 19 Television and FremantleMedia to decide on a yearly basis whether to renew the show.

“This franchise obviously had profound impact on corporation as a whole,” Grushow said. “And there’s no question Simon has been and will continue to be a linchpin for many years to come. This is a real coup for us.”

Fox finalized the relationship just days before the launch of Cowell’s reality skein “Cupid,” which bows this Wednesday on CBS.

That show reps the veteran music exec’s first stab at producing primetime series TV. Although he appears only briefly in the show (which he exec produces, along with FremantleMedia), Cowell was at the center of the Eye’s “Cupid” marketing campaign.

Under the new deal, Cowell won’t be able to appear regularly on other reality shows, but he may still appear in some of his Fox-grown creations.

“If I was working alongside Fox, and it made sense to appear in something, I’d do it,” he said. “But I’m more than happy to be behind the scenes.”

That doesn’t mean Cowell doesn’t have other TV aspirations, however. The star has mulled the possibility of hosting a syndie talker at 20th Television–but those conversations are still in an early stage.

Cowell, a longtime pop music producer and record label owner, first appeared in the U.K.’s “Pop Idol,” before crossing the Pond last year, when he became an instant sensation as the “American Idol” judge viewers loved to hate.

Cowell said he was approached by a number of networks, but felt his personality fit best at Fox.

“I’ve always had a good relationship with Sandy, I respect his team, I like the whole Fox character,” he said. “I could have done other things with the other networks, but this made the most sense. I love (Fox alternative chief) Mike (Darnell) to death and (entertainment prexy) Gail (Berman). I trust them, respect them.”

Additionally, Cowell hopes to continue to work with FremantleMedia, which also produces “Idol,” and he plans to hire some U.K. execs to come to the U.S. to collaborate on some projects.

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