We’re all gearing up for the return of American Idol this week, but what about The X Factor? Season 3 ended in December with the most deserving act — Alex and Sierra — taking home the top prize. It’s unclear at this point if they will be considered the final winners of this Simon Cowell-created reality competition series because those in charge of FOX don’t even know yet if X Factor is being renewed — or at least that’s what they’re saying publicly.

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FOX Entertainment Chairman Kevin Reilly spoke with reporters at the 2014 Television Critics Association winter press tour, saying, “There is no decision [on a renewal]. The show under-performed this year, Simon himself would admit that. The ratings were not what we hoped.”

Reilly went on to say that “If the show were to come back, it would not be in the current format we have.” But he did admit that the network will “make that decision over the next month.”

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard this. Over the past several weeks, starting around December 2013, rumors have been swirling online that X Factor will most likely be renewed for a fourth season, with format changes as Reilly has confirmed here. One rumor was that the show is going to be reduced to one night a week, similar to how Dancing with the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance air their shows. Cowell admitted that that is under consideration, telling reporters last month, “I think that’s gonna be the pattern going forward.”

And speaking of the British judge, could we potentially see a season 4 without Simon Cowell at the judging table? That very well could happen. He told Zap2It recently, “I don’t know yet.” And at this week’s TCA presentation, Reilly wouldn’t firmly say one way or the other: “He’s never going to be out of it. It’s his creation. … I don’t ever count out Simon Cowell on anything.”

Changes to the format, changes to the judging panel — what does this all mean for the future of The X Factor? I think it means that if the show does return, season 4 will be its last if the ratings continue tumbling. I know we’ve said that almost every year now, but if Simon decides not to be a judge, that’s a cue to many of the remaining viewers to start tuning out, which would then affect the ratings even more. I started watching The X Factor because of Simon. Why should any of us watch if he’s not there? It’s his show, after all. I might still watch, but I doubt my interest level will be as high.

Even though a lot of people want The X Factor to be cancelled, I don’t think it will be. It seems to me there have been too many rumors and reports going around to assume FOX is going to cancel it. The network is obviously coming up with ways to keep the show running (namely in the format changes, as mentioned.)

And just last week, an iCount USA Survey became available for its members to give their opinion on possible format changes (the results of which go to the network and producers). MJsBigBlog reported on the idea brought up in the survey, which is this: season 4 would take place over the course of only eight weeks, starting with the auditions and Four-Chair Challenge. Then the live shows would air for four consecutive days in the same week (Sunday through Wednesday), with the finale landing on a Thursday.

Keep in mind this is just one possibility FOX is mulling over. It’s understandable that they would want to shorten the season and combine both the performances and results into one episode each week: to make it cheaper, and to try and justify the lower ratings.

To some, this all might seem to be too much of a hassle and The X Factor should just be put out of its misery already. While that’s a valid point, if FOX cancels it altogether, they would have to replace three hours worth of shows each week. Would those replacement shows be making the network more money for them? Or would they be putting themselves into a deeper hole? Going down to one night a week seems like a reasonable option because, that way, only one hour needs to be filled in the fall instead of three.

While I like the idea of combining both shows into one night, I’m not so fond of The X Factor possibly airing all the live shows in one week, over the course of four days. That seems very rushed to me. The live shows are where we really get to see which singers have what it takes and which ones fall under pressure. That takes time, not three to four days. I want to get invested in these contestants, like I did with Alex and Sierra in season 3. If any round should be shortened, it’s the earlier and middle rounds. They can still shorten the live round if they want, but shortening it this much is going a tad overboard.

At this point, I’ve watched and invested myself in three seasons of The X Factor. And while it’s not the best of the three singing competition shows, I’m sure I’ll still watch no matter what form it takes because I love being able to discover new talent. But that’s just me. The rest of America might not be as willing to go along for the bumpy ride again.

Overhauling the show yet again won’t do it any good. It’s all being done to cut down on costs and so that FOX doesn’t have as many timeslots to fill (which goes along with the cost factor). But at some point, the ax will have to come down to cancel this show. It may not happen this year, but eventually, the inevitable will happen.

(Image courtesy of FOX)

Jeff Dodge

Staff Writer, BuddyTV

Jeff Dodge, a graduate of Western Washington University, has been a TV news editor for many years and has had the chance to interview multiple reality show stars, including Randy Jackson, Nick Cannon, Heidi Klum, Mel B and John Cena.