X Factor, the high-profile new talent show airing this fall, will have a headlining judge when it premiers and he's a very familiar face to fans of reality TV.
Cowell, who created the original UK version of the show and will serve as an executive producer for the U.S. edition, made the announcement on February 7 at a press event.
"Once the show goes into production, I become a judge," he said. "Then I have to put my trust into the producers' hands, which is effectively how it works in the U.K. Yes, I am judging."
At the press event, Cowell also revealed two other pieces of news: there will be no age cut off for participants past 12 years of age and that the winner will receive a $5 million record deal with Sony Music, a record for a reality show competition.
"I like the idea that a 12-year-old on this show can compete with an older singer and a singing group," Cowell said via a statement. "I've never believed there should be a cut-off age for talent, and we are going to put our money where our mouths are with the $5 million recording contract. I'm doing this show in America because I genuinely believe we can find a superstar."
Cowell said that he was inspired to remove the age limit after Susan Boyle was discovered on Britain's Got Talent in 2009 for her performance of "I Dreamed a Dream" from Les Miserables. The then 47-year-old singer became a YouTube sensation and fan favorite after flooring the judge's panel, which included Cowell.
A virtual who's who of big names have been mentioned as potential co-judges. Rihanna, Jessica Simpson, Katy Perry and Will Smith are some of the A-listers floated to serve with Cowell, as has the name of another former Idol judge, Paula Abdul.
"I'm a massive fan of Paula. We honestly haven't made our mind up yet … We're talking to a number of people," Cowell said. We hope to make an announcement in three to four weeks."
X Factor will differ from Idol in several ways. In addition to having no upper age limit, X Factor allows for both individual and group acts and makes the judges serve as mentors to the finalists.
"I wanted to make a show where I could help the competitors on a weekly basis and that's more interesting to me because I will have a lot more to do," Cowell said.
There is a change in the audition process as well. On Idol, would be superstars perform for the panel of judges only; on X Factor, there will be a public audition portion of the show where performers will take part in concerts with audiences of 4,000 to 5,000 people to see how they will deal with the pressure.
Auditions for the show start in March in Los Angeles on March 27. There will be additional tryouts in Chicago, Dallas, Miami, New York or New Jersey and Seattle.