Cowell scores triumph with ‘X Factor’

ITV reality talent skein peaks with 44% share

LONDON — The final of ITV’s blockbuster reality talent skein, “The X Factor,” drew a record-breaking audience peaking with a 44% share.

But the real winner of the contest was its creator and judge, Simon Cowell, who has inked a £20 million, ($38 million) three-year exclusive deal with ITV, which gives the broadcaster first option on his new shows.

The deal allows Cowell to continue as a judge on Fox’s “American Idol.”

His next ITV project, “Britain’s Got Talent,” is a British version of NBC’s “America’s Got Talent.”

The climax of “The X Factor” was seen by 12.6 million viewers in Blighty and was won by London office worker Leona Lewis, who, according to Cowell, has got what it takes to be a “global star.”

Her debut single, “A Moment Like This,” sold 50,000 downloads in Blighty within 30 minutes of its release and is a racing cert to be the Christmas number one in the U.K.

This year’s final — aired Saturday Dec. 16 — will almost certainly be ITV1’s most watched entertainment show of the year, and beat last year’s contest in the ratings, which was watched by 9.3 million viewers netting a 36% audience share.

But in 2005 “The X Factor” competed head to head against the final of BBC1’s “Strictly Come Dancing” — shown in the U.S. as “Dancing With the Stars.”

The “Strictly Come Dancing” final airs this Saturday, Dec. 23.