Andrew Llinares and Rob Wade, two of the executive producers of “The X Factor” U.S., did a telephone conference call with journalists on Feb. 26, 2013. During the interview, Llinares and Wade said that changes to the show would be made for Season 3 in 2013. But they wouldn’t say specifically what those changes would be. Instead, there was a lot of vague talk about how many of those upcoming changes haven’t been decided yet. (Fox will premiere Season 3 of the show in September 2013, on a date to be announced. Fox’s bios for Wade and Llinares are listed at the end of this article.)
It was obvious very early on in the conference call that nothing was going to be revealed about who else might be on the show’s judging panel with “The X Factor” executive producer Simon Cowell. Former “X Factor” U.S. judges Britney Spears and L.A. Reid need to be replaced, and it hasn’t been announced yet if Demi Lovato will continue to be a judge on the show in 2013. Instead, it was made very clear that Llinares and Wade wanted the interview to be primarily focused on the show’s 2013 auditions, which begin March 6 in Los Angeles. The show’s entire judging panel for 2013 should be announced by May, when auditions begin in front of the judges. “The X Factor” producers pre-screen and select contestants at auditions that happen before then.
But no amount of publicizing for “X Factor” U.S. auditions can erase this fact: None of the contestants from the show has become a big hitmaking star in the United States. Melanie Amaro (Season 1 winner) and Tate Stevens (Season 2 winner) have flopped on the charts with their singles, and their respective first albums are also likely to bomb. Other former “X Factor” U.S. alumni signed to Sony Music have either had lackluster, unimpressive sales in the U.S. (such as Chris Rene, who came in third place in Season 1) or have been major flops on the U.S. charts (everyone else).
Meanwhile, as expected, Wade and Llinares predictably did not admit that Khloe Kardashian was a disaster as the show’s co-host. “The X Factor” U.S. executive producers (including Cowell) were at least partially responsible for this embarrassing and costly Kardashian mistake that turned off millions of viewers, but who is going to admit to a bunch of journalists that they made such a stupid business decision? If you look carefully at anyone who says that Kardashian was “great” at hosting “The X Factor,” then you’ll notice that the people spouting this delusion either work with/for the Kardashians, are related to the Kardashians, have a vested interest in kissing the Kardashians’ you-know-whats, or are Kardashian fans who are too young or too moronic to know what makes a good TV host.
As I have reported all along (but many media outlets were too afraid to report), Kardashian caused so many “X Factor” viewer complaints and boycotts that the only thing dumber than hiring her to host “The X Factor” in the first place would be to ask her to come back for another season. Several insiders say that Kardashian is not going to be asked back, no matter how many times that representatives for the show claim that the decision hasn’t been made yet. (“X Factor” representatives said the same thing about former “X Factor” U.S. host Steve Jones when it was obvious he was getting fired from the show.)
Meanwhile, the show’s ratings dropped an alarming 25 percent in 2012. (According to the Nielsen Company, “The X Factor” U.S. averaged about 12 million U.S. viewers per episode in its first season in 2011, but those ratings plummeted to about 8 million U.S. viewers per episode in 2012.) But don’t expect anyone from the show to actually admit all of these problems and take responsibility for these problems in an interview, because let’s be real: Their jobs and egos are at stake. Here’s what Llinares and Wade said in their attempt to avoid talking about the show’s big problems and pump up interest in the 2013 “X Factor” U.S. auditions.
Now that the show’s moving into its third season do you think “The X Factor” has reached its full potential with the audition process or is there still a lot more room to grow?
Llinares: I think what’s been incredibly exciting for us when we set out on these auditions is you go into it not knowing what to expect. You have high hopes and you hope that someone amazing is going to walk in and you just don’t know. It’s what’s really exciting about these shows. So I don’t think you could ever say you’ve reached your full potential. You always hope that you’re going to find something amazing and we’re certainly very, very excited about that this year.
How did you approach the audition process this season in terms of what worked and what didn’t work the last two seasons?
Wade: I think essentially our audition process has been incredibly successful. We’ve got amazing talent out of the show. We have phenomenal amounts of people coming for our open calls and we get a huge response to our online auditions as well. I think what we’re looking for essentially is a jewel, an uncovered diamond.
So obviously, a lot of that is down to hard work and a little bit about that is down to luck. All we’re trying to do is just get the word out there, let people know these auditions are on, make them excited to enter, show them what can happen, show them that you can actually fulfill your dreams. You can go from being a very normal everyday person with a very normal everyday job and then become a recording artist. We’ve been doing that very successfully and we want to continue doing that.
Obviously we’re talking about the auditions, but there’s a lot of speculation about what’s going to be happening on the show with the judges’ panel. Can you give us any indication of where things are looking to replace people?
Wade: Well, it’s always exciting in this process. We don’t know what we’re doing yet. We’re speaking to a few people. The judges are an incredibly important part of the show, as we know. Really, right now, our focus, I’ve got to say, is on the contestants.
We start these auditions on [March 6, 2013]. We want to make sure that that’s where our focus is right now. You’ll have to kind of watch this space on the judges, I’m afraid.
Do you expect to see with bringing in a new judge we might see a ratings rise?
Wade: I think, obviously, what we’re hoping to do this year is to improve the show, make it as good as possible. Of course, we obviously hope to have a ratings rise for a number of reasons whether that be the new judge or any tweaks we do to the format. Of course, we’re the EPs of the show. That’s what we’re hoping.
There are rumors buzzing that Khloe Kardashian is not coming back to the show. Is there still going to be a two-host format?
Wade: We’re sort of at the beginning of the whole process at the moment. We’re kind of looking at everything in the show whether it’s the hosts, the judges, the contestants, the whole show, really. We’re sort of working through it all. So it’s a little bit early for us to say, really. We’re still kind of open to all options, I would say on that. We’re working through it.
Like I said, the focus for us right now is these auditions which start very soon. At the end of the day, the stars of this show are the contestants. They really, really are, and that’s what we need to focus on is making sure that we do a great, great set of auditions around the country. Hopefully find some true stars there.
Is the audition format still going to be the same? So does this mean that other things might be a little bit more flexible moving forward, as far as the judges? Or is this all subject to change at this point?
Wade: Absolutely. We’re looking at everything again. We’re looking at the judging panel to set the format of the show. We’re looking at ways to improve the show is much as we can right from the audition process to the middle stages of the show and, of course, the live show. So we’re looking at everything again and trying to make as good to watch for the viewer as possible.
Llinares: It sounds like we’re cloaking everything in secrecy. It’s generally a process we’re going through at the moment. It’s not quite as mysterious as we’re making out, maybe.
Wade: I think it’s worth saying, at this point, we want to take the best elements of Season 1 and we want to take the best elements of Season 2 and then we want to add to that a bit and make the best show that we can because I think we’ve been really proud of the last two seasons. I think there’s been some great talent coming out of it, great moments, great TV. That’s what we’re working on at the moment. As Andrew said, we’re not trying to have everything secrecy we’re just trying to get the most out of this show and make it the best show we can.
Do you think that the contestants are at all at a disadvantage by going into the auditions without judges being there that will be judging them in the future when they get on the show?
Wade: I think that’s just a reality to the process. This show attracts huge, huge crowds. We’ve seen crowds of 10,000 or 15,000 sometimes showing up in these cities and there’s just a physical impossibility for one panel of judges to see those people in a day. I think if they were actually to see everybody audition, they’d be here until next Christmas doing it. So we kind of have to have a filtering process.
Actually, I think we feel our filtering process and the process that people go through when they turn up at these first rounds of auditions is a very fair process, actually. We get to see everybody individually and we have a little chat with them. Then we get to hear them sing. So they really do get a proper process.
They’re auditioned in front of some great producers from the show and also representatives of Sony, the record company, some people who really know what they are looking for. So it’s a really great process. I think most people that come along feel like they’ve had a great, great day.
Can you give an update on the top three of Season 2, especially Fifth Harmony because they were kind of unusual finalists?
Wade: Yes. Sure. Starting off with Tate [Stevens], our winner. I’m sure you also saw that he had the music video during the Grammys. He’s currently working very hard. He’s recording his first album and that’s being released in April . Last year, our winner released much later in the year. We want our winner to release kind of early this year. So they’ve gone through to April and we push it up to April. So we’re excited to hear that.
We’ve heard a couple of songs … well, I’ve heard a couple of songs. They’re good, and it’s very exciting. Tate is working incredibly hard. Of course, that guy, everything you saw on the screen, that is him. He really wants it. He’s working incredibly hard.
Fifth Harmony, as you know, they’ve signed with Epic, and that’s L.A. Reid’s label. They are working on their first album. We don’t have a release date for them yet. They’re doing some press, they’re out and about, and they’ve got a lot to work on.
As you said, they were a brand-new group and obviously they’re gelling together really well and we’re really excited about them. It was interesting on the show in the first couple of weeks of the live show you kind of just saw them forming as a group and by the end they really kind of hit their stride.
Then, Emblem 3, they signed with Columbia, they’re recording their first album. It’s coming out in the spring. They’ve got some tour dates this week. They’ll be Southern California and the East Coast. So that’s where we are with everyone. Is that a good enough answer? Do you want any more information?
Llinares: I’m not sure you could give any more information …
Wade: Yes. Sorry. I went on a bit.
Will we be seeing more of that kind of mix-and-match like Simon Cowell did with Fifth Harmony, by taking contestants who originally auditioned as solo singers and putting them into a group?
Wade: Yes. It was very successful with Fifth Harmony. I think what’s exciting about this whole process is it’s a pretty organic process. So that is something that kind of very naturally came about as a boot camp last year, where there were these five girls that the judges felt may come together and create a great, great group and it really, really worked.
Who knows? Maybe that could happen again, maybe not. I think it’s all about who walks in the door and that’s what’s exciting about it for us. We just don’t know what’s going to happen. Some things none of us could imagine might happen. It’s kind of exciting.
Are you looking for anything specific this year? How are you defining “The X Factor” as going into Season 3?
Wade: I think it’s interesting. We get asked that question and a lot of what we’re going to expect to see and the truth is, we want to be surprised. When we went into Season 1, we didn’t expect that we’d suddenly find some little voice like Melanie Amaro. In Season 2, we just talked about Fifth Harmony. Who knew that someone as exciting as them or who knew that a country singer would win the show in that second season? We never know what we’re going to find.
We’re very open-minded about who enters this competition and it’s what makes us very different to the other singing shows out there. Someone who’s over 25 could win this, a country singer like Tate, a group could win this a young group like an Emblem 3 type, or it could be a solo singer.
So we’re very lucky in our format that we have such a broad outreach. We accept talent in all shapes and sizes. So the truth is we’re not out there looking for one thing. We’re looking for everything and we’re looking for the very best of everything.
Are looking to lower the age requirement or are you going to stick with the parameters of last season?
Llinares: No. The [minimum contestant] age will still be 12. So anyone from 12 upwards can enter the competition. But like Rob said, what’s really exciting is ultimately in this show you could have a 12-year-old singing against a 60-year-old. It really is a show that’s open to absolutely anybody.
So you’ve got people who are just starting out in their lives and potentially in their careers who might be facing people who may think that it’s too late for them and that maybe this is their last chance at actually achieving something like this with their lives. So it’s a show where dreams really can come true but for people right across the age spectrum which is incredibly exciting I think.
What is your favorite part of the whole process for the show?
Wade: I think being in the booths over the next month is great. I know this sounds like a cliché but we do believe that the talent, the contestants, are the stars of the show. It’s a very special moment when you get someone really great in your booth. They come in and they sing and they blow you away.
There’s a little bit of competitiveness between all of us who go and do these auditions because we want to be the ones who found that star, that they came into our booth. So I really personally enjoy that. Andrew, you?
Llinares: Yes. I would agree because at the end of the day, you want to have that moment when you’re auditioning these people. You want that moment when you kind of tingle because you think you found something special. So I think we all kind of look out for the moment when we look forward to the moment where we might get that special kind of tingle where you think, “Oh my God, this is something really special.”
It doesn’t happen that often, to be honest. We see a lot of people but we’ve always got our eyes and ears open and we’re always hoping to find the next big thing. When you think you might have done it, that’s kind of a really magic feeling.
Do you favor solo artists over groups?
Wade: From a personal point of view, I’m kind of quite easy. I like everything. It’s not like I prefer them within their categories. From a personal preference and I think as a show preference as well we just like originality. You don’t want a cookie-cutter-like personal act. You want people who really excite you and feel original.
You talked about how lot of “The X Factor” open-ended right now, and you’re changing things as you go. Is that stressful as producers?
Llinares: No. I think it’s all part of the process, really. I think like we said with the additions it’s quite an organic process, the whole thing. I think there’s obviously lots to sort out on the show of this scale with the auditions, the judges, the hosts and all of the different elements of it, but it’s an exciting process.
We’re all really lucky to do something for a living that is so exciting. It’s a really, really, really exciting thing to do. So we don’t find it stressful. We love it. It is all part of the journey of it.
What do you find the most challenging out of the whole thing?
Wade: Working with Andrew. No. What’s the most challenging? The show has been around in the U.K. for 10 years and what’s challenging is just constantly trying to update and refresh it and make it relevant that’s what’s challenging. It’s just constant.
We’re very hard on ourselves, in a way, and we want this show to be brilliant. We always push each other and push our team to make the best show possible. We love what we do so it’s not too bad.
Do you have any advice for Khloe Kardashian and any other hopefuls who have never previously hosted a TV show?
Wade: I think having our show like this, I always think you’ve got to come to it from a place where you’re speaking with your heart. It’s a show about real people. It’s a show about people who want to change their lives.
You look at someone like Tate Stevens and you see someone there who had a very normal life in and a very ordinary job and he wanted to change his life and he came on the show. Now he’s living his dreams. I think everybody’s who’s on the show needs to kind of understand that and speak with their hearts.
Wade: I think, as we’ve said, we’re still working through the questions. I think Khloe did a great job and she obviously hasn’t hosted before. We all felt she did a great job. I think hosting, in general, is a really interesting position in television because it’s very often people are very rarely very nice about it.
It’s always everyone thinks it’s an easy kind of gig and it’s not. It’s really, really difficult. The great host that’s been for years and years make it look very easy and that’s the truth of things. We would never presume to put someone in a hosting role in their first year of having done it and expect them to be perfect. How could you? We felt Khloe did a good job.
Does the show really need two hosts? Mario Lopez seems to do a very good job. It seems like one person could really carry it. What’s the purpose of having two hosts?
Llinares: I think we went with two hosts because we like the idea of doing something a little bit different to maybe some of the other shows. We like the idea of almost bringing that kind of award ceremony feeling to the show. So I think that’s one way of looking at it.
There’s obviously a case for having one host or two hosts. Like we say, we’re sort of working through all of these things at the moment before we decide exactly what we’re going to do. I think there’s pros and cons to both, really.
Do you have any surprises coming up that are going to be changes to the show that’s going to be any different?
Wade: Yes, we do. I think we’re going to change some of the elements and the format. I wouldn’t say we’d call them so much as surprises. There are ways we’re planning on improving the show. As soon as those are finalized we’re going to kind of be letting people know.
As Andrew said a couple of times now, we’re focusing very much on new auditions and the contestants at the moment. Getting people to our open auditions to L.A., Charleston, New Orleans, Long Island and Denver because if they don’t turn up to those auditions, then the show would be poorer for it.
And any surprises we do are going to be kind of pointless because that’s where the show is made. We are very aware of that. We’re getting this bit right now getting this bit set off correctly. Making sure we’re maximizing our talent search and then everything else will fall into place.
How about the storytelling of the individual artists who are out there? Are you going to be doing more storytelling for the contestants?
Llinares: I think our ambition with the storytelling is always to engage people as much as possible and all the contestants are coming through. We’re always looking at new ways of doing that. Some of that might be about seeing them back where they come from.
Some of it’s about just experience in the day they have at the auditions with us. We’re always looking at ways of making that story as engaging as possible. We want people to really feel what the contestants are going through when they watch the show.
It’s a very emotional experience auditioning for something like this. You’ve got real highs and lows of emotion. You’ve got excitement, you’ve got tears, you’ve got all sorts of different things. It’s our job, I think, to get those emotions over.
We want the viewers to feel the motion of the day. It’s an incredibly emotional experience. If people can feel what the contestants are going through then I think we’ve done a good job. So that’s certainly what we’re aiming at.
Here are Fox’s bios for Llinares and Wade:
Andrew Llinares (Executive Producer, “The X Factor”)
Andrew Llinares is head of talkbackTHAMES/Syco co-productions and executive producer of the U.K.’s “The X Factor.” Llinares started his career as a newspaper journalist in Manchester before his first move into television as a researcher for Granada Manchester. Starting on shows for Granada Satellite, he soon moved over to Granada Entertainment, where he worked as an associate producer and director.
Moving to London, he worked on numerous entertainment shows, including the “Andi Meets…” series and “OK! TV,” as well as spending six months filming Vinnie Jones for the series “Vinnie.” Following his time on celebrity access shows, Llinares moved to “20/20” to work on “Lads’ Army” before moving to talkbackTHAMES to work as producer/director on the second season of “Pop Idol,” followed by “World Idol.” In 2004, Llinares produced the pilot, “Streets Ahead with Sarah Beeny,” and then went on to produce the first season of “The X Factor.” In 2005, Llinares also produced “Madonna Mania,” “Queen Mania” and the second and third seasons of “The X Factor.”
Llinares has also worked as a consulting producer on “American Inventor,” and since 2006, he has executive-produced “Britain’s Got Talent” and both the U.K. and U.S. versions of “The X Factor.”
He lives in the U.K. and Los Angeles.
Robert Wade (Executive Producer, “The X Factor”)
Robert Wade has been in broadcast entertainment for 15 years, specializing in live, music, variety and reality programming. In the U.K., he worked on a broad spectrum of successful series, including “TFI Friday,” “The Generation Game,” “Big Brother,” “Dog Eat Dog,” “Fame Academy” and “I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here.”
Wade moved to the U.S. in 2005 to work on the first season of “Dancing with the Stars” and “Grease: You’re the One That I Want.” During the six seasons that he was a co-executive producer on “Dancing with the Stars,” the show earned four Emmy Award nominations and won two People’s Choice and three NAACP Image Awards.
He lives in Los Angeles.