Simon Cowell's New Job: Judging on Israel's X Factor

The British producer and reality TV judge, responsible for the careers of countless pop stars, will become a regular member of the judges panel on the Israeli show

Itay Stern
Itay Stern
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Simon Cowell attends a ceremony honoring him with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Aug. 22, 2018, in Los Angeles. Cowell turns 61 on Oct. 7.
Simon Cowell attends a ceremony honoring him with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Aug. 22, 2018, in Los Angeles. Cowell turns 61 on Oct. 7. Credit: Richard Shotwell,AP
Itay Stern
Itay Stern

He is back: Simon Cowell, the renowned music reality competition judge and creator of “The X Factor” and “Got Talent” will be joining “The X Factor Israel” as a judge, announced Israeli broadcaster Reshet on Wednesday – the first time he will appear regularly on a show that is not broadcast in the United Kingdom or the United States.

Cowell’s contract is quite costly, worth millions of shekels. Cowell is the creator of the “Got Talent” and “The X Factor” formats and is one of the most famous people in the entertainment world. He is credited with the discovery of many pop singers and bands, including “One Direction,” Susan Boyle and Leona Lewis.

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It remains to be seen what Cowell, who broke his back a couple of months ago and is still recovering, understands about Israeli music and how he will communicate with the other judges, who speak Hebrew on the show. Cowell’s hiring came after an especially challenging year during which Reshet fired dozens of employees, both in the news division and elsewhere in the company.

Israeli supermodel Bar Refaeli, center, hosting the Israeli version of X Factor in 2014.Credit: David Bachar

What has become clear are the priorities of Reshet’s owners with respect to who will fill prime time viewing slots. On Wednesday it was reported that Reshet had paid 500,000 shekels ($155,000) to former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s closest aide, Shula Zaken to appear on its “Big Brother” show. Zaken was convicted of fraud, accepting bribes and breach of trust and served time in prison.

Keshet also reached for the stars by bringing in Israel's sweetheart during the early 200s, Ninet Tayeb to the judges’ table of “Rising Star.” The other five judges are Static and Ben El Tavori, Keren Peles, Assaf Amdursky and Itay Levy. Tayeb was hired after the Israeli rock musician Aviv Geffen expressed interest in the spot, but in the end he was left out.

The addition of Tayeb indicates that Keshet might be feeling under pressure, after its music reality show lost the major honor of sending its season winner to represent Israel in the Eurovision song contest. After the Kan public broadcasting corporation decided to take back that right from Keshet, Keshet declared that season winners will instead win a a cash prize of one million shekels.

Simon Cowell and Ninet Tayeb.Credit: Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP, Eric Gaillard / Reuters

The battle of the giants between Keshet and Reshet over their music reality shows reflects the ongoing rivalry and competition between the two broadcasters playing out on Israeli television. Last summer, Reshet managed to steal ratings away from then-reigning ratings leader Keshet with its VIP season of “Survivor.” But Keshet fought back and immediately after “Survivor” ended, aired “The Masked Singer” and “Ninja Israel,” winning back its title when “The Masked Singer” became the most watched show of the year. Reshet is not doing as well in the ratings with this year’s season of “Big Brother VIP” and is consistently losing out to Keshet’s shows in the same time slot.