Music mogul LA Reid first judge to join X Factor US
Island Def Jam chairman to team up with Simon Cowell as Pepsi pins hopes on talent show being a hit in US
The upcoming US version of The X Factor finally has a confirmed candidate to join Simon Cowell on the judging bench - and it's not Cheryl Cole, Nicole Scherzinger or any of the other luscious-haired girls mentioned in recent months.
Instead it's a hardboiled music executive called L A (Antonio) Reid, chairman of the Island Def Jam label, and responsible for helping launch the careers of Rihanna, Kayne West and Justin Bieber among others.
When Reid's name came up last month, he said: "I think music on television certainly has a place and it's important. In some ways, TV has become as impactful as radio once was."
According to the Hollywood Reporter, his appointment is "a done deal" and will be announced officially next week - possibly at the same time as the names of the girls being signed to "balance" music moguls Reid and Cowell.
Cheryl Coles's name is still on the list of favourites but questions have been raised about her strong Geordie accent and lack of fame in the States. There are suggestions from audience focus groups that Americans will not take her to their hearts the way Britain has done.
The importance of getting the judging panel right is in no doubt with the news that Pepsi Cola plans to spend $60m sponsoring the first season.
Pepsi has a lot riding on the deal. Figures released today are expected to show that it has been knocked off second spot in the $74bn-a-year domestic soft drinks trade by Diet Coke. The company is banking on The X Factor being a hit as it seeks to claw its way back. (Coke itself is number one.)
As a Los Angeles-based TV producer told The First Post overnight: "Cheryl Cole may be cute as a button - but if she doesn't shift Pepsi six-packs off the shelves in Idaho then she ain't the right girl. That's the reality."
Meanwhile, the first auditions for the US show are due to start in LA at the end of March. When the first show airs in the autumn, contestants will be competing for a $5m recording contract.