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Simon Cowell Hints at Launch of Online Pan-Regional Talent Show

CANNES — Simon Cowell, whose U.K. version of “The X Factor” has been sold to 147 territories worldwide since April, is mulling a number of new projects, including a pan-regional talent show and a deal for an entertainment show that could involve a streaming service like Netflix.

During an interview with six journalists at TV market Mipcom in Cannes, where he was honored as Personality of the Year on Tuesday, Cowell hinted at the shows he had in development, while keeping his cards close to the chest.

Asked about whether he saw any potential in a pan-regional entertainment format, he responded: “One hundred percent and that is something we have been thinking of for more than three years — a long, long time — and I think it is going to get easier, not harder.”

Asked whether this pan-regional show could be similar to “The Eurovision Song Contest” — in which about 40 countries select a singer or band to represent them with one song each, which then progress through two semi-finals to a final with 10 countries competing — he said: “You’ll have to wait and see.”

He said that an attempt by singing show “Idol” to do a regional show had not been a success. “It was so bad, I think it put everybody off. I think from memory there were something like 11 or 16 judges — I’m not kidding — on that show, so the judging took about half an hour on each act, and every one of them had been put on the show to be the equivalent of me. It was ‘who could be ruder’ each time. It was just a disaster,” he said.

“So the ‘Got Talent’ one would be the most obvious one to start with. We’ll definitely be in that space sooner rather than later,” he said.

Cowell said that his company, Syco Entertainment, was eyeing the possibility of developing a show that would start in the online space and then move to television. “Yes, we have discussed that,” he said. “I can’t give too much away because I have done that in the past and I’ve regretted it, so I have to be a bit careful there.”

He said that an increasing number of reps from the U.S. networks had been in touch with Syco recently to find out what new shows it would launch next, despite Fox’s decision earlier this year to cancel “The X Factor” after three seasons in the States. “We are starting to get more calls now from the major networks to see what we do have next,” he said.

But he added that the next big Syco show may not be on a television network. Asked whether he had been approached by a streaming operator like Netflix to pitch an entertainment format, similar to the deal that Chelsea Handler has inked with Netflix to create a talk-show, he said: “We are going to announce something soon that is going to be a big show and it is not on a cable network, not on a major network, it is somewhere else, and I think it is hopefully a bit of a game changer because the market has suddenly just got bigger, and I think ‘House of Cards’ was part of the reason, because people now have confidence that you don’t have to be a broadcaster to make money on these types of things. Inevitably those kinds of people will want entertainment shows as well,” he said.

“The good thing about them is that we could do a whole show in a week if we wanted to. I love the idea of doing that — or two weeks. You are not dependent upon the network schedule any more,” he said. “The market for our shows at the moment is probably about three times we had two or three years ago.”

Asked about Syco’s development process, he said: “The show that we are going to announce hopefully this month or next month took three years to develop because it sounds like a simple idea, but when you look at it — what each episode would look like — it wasn’t working, so we found another way of doing it.”

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