Simon Cowell reveals how Britain's Got Talent was almost cancelled as he teases spin-off series

SImon Cowell pictured at the BGT auditions in London on January 23, 2023 (PA)
SImon Cowell pictured at the BGT auditions in London on January 23, 2023 (PA)

Britain’s Got Talent is gearing up for its season premiere this Saturday, marking 17 years on-air, but Simon Cowell has revealed how the show nearly didn’t make it to broadcast.

Cowell and his production company, Syco Entertainment, are the brains behind the enduring talent contest, but securing its debut in 2007 was a challenging journey. First, the 64-year-old revealed that the show’s pilot was initially overlooked by UK TV bosses.

To make matters worse after a successful stint in the US with America’s Got Talent, ITV then commissioned a pilot episode, only to scrap it three days before filming was set to begin in Birmingham.

The music mogul recalled how he didn’t tell a soul about his conundrum, instead persuading ITV executives to give him 24 hours to salvage the situation.

Speaking at the BGT launch, which The Standard was in attendance, he shared: “This show has a very interesting history when we first started because we did the pilot here and it was rubbish.

“Then luckily, we sold it to America and it was a hit. Then thank God ITV bought it but three days before we were due to film, they cancelled it.

Judges (L-R) Bruno Tonioli, Alesha Dixon, Amanda Holden and Simon Cowell at the BGT press launch (Getty Images)
Judges (L-R) Bruno Tonioli, Alesha Dixon, Amanda Holden and Simon Cowell at the BGT press launch (Getty Images)

“So, we went up to Birmingham, because I didn’t tell anyone and thinking, ‘we’ve got 24 hours if it doesn’t work in the first day we’re toast’ – and thank God the first day went well.”

Now 17 years in, the show has proven to be one of ITV’s success stories, defying the odds in an everchanging TV landscape, and something Cowell is incredibly proud of.

Helmed by Ant McPartlin and Declan Donnelly, Britain’s Got Talent will hit a major milestone in three years’ time - an astonishing two decades on-air.

But Cowell isn’t surprised - the Syco founder believes the series is “going to be here for a long, long time”.

He reflected: “I always thought if we can get three or four years out of this it will be amazing then you reach 10 years and you go, ‘that’s a milestone’.

“I think because of what I said earlier so many people come from all over the world to compete and it’s not just winning the show, it’s having that viral moment which can literally change your life overnight, these clips sometimes get hundreds of millions of views.

“I think that’s why people are going to come back year after year after year and hopefully keep competing and get better because that’s what I’m seeing is that the acts are actually getting better because the show has all ages.

“I think it’s going to be here for a long, long time.”

And Cowell knows the secret to the show’s longevity is its ability to adapt – and it seems he’s already thinking of ways, in particular a potential spin-off – Britain’s Got Talent kids.

“I have thought about it,” he admitted. “I would actually you know.”

Speaking of children, the music boss shared that his son Eric, whom he welcomed with partner Lauren Silverman, has a natural knack for judging so much so viewers may get a glimpse of the 10-year-old behind the judges desk this season.

“To be honest, Eric did judge one act this year,” he shared. “I don’t know if they’re going to show it or not, and he was actually really, really good.

“He was like, ‘I’m not so sure about the first song but I like the second song’ and I went ‘God, that’s my boy!’”

Britain’s Got Talent returns to ITV1 and ITVX Saturday, April 20 from 7:30pm.