Huge snub for ITV’s Peter Fincham as X Factor rebel Cheryl Cole won’t even take his phone calls

The X Factor off stage is much more entertaining than on it, unless you’re an ITV executive wondering if your prize ratings winner is going to implode.

Which is probably what ITV programme boss Peter Fincham is worrying about this morning as the UK’s biggest terrestrial broadcaster has had to rush out a Tweet (an ‘official’ Tweet no less) confirming that the judges for the new season of the X Factor will be Take That’s Gary Barlow, Louis Walsh (yawn) and the singers from N-Dubz and Destiny’s Child.

And the latter two haven’t even been married to Premiership footballers.

But definitely no Cheryl Cole according to ITV, although these things have a habit of changing.

Everybody (including Fincham probably) thought Cole would hasten to sign up for the X Factor in the UK despite her humiliating treatment by show boss and presenter Simon Cowell and his bosses at red-in-tooth-and-claw US broadcaster Fox over her short-lived involvement in the new US version of X Factor.

The Foxes decided that Cheryl was too much like co-host Paula Abdul, too fat or too difficult to understand with her Geordie accent (take your pick) and she was bounced.

But the X Factor UK still beckoned but Cole, to everyone’s amazement apart from hers (clearly) and her manager Black Eyed Pea Will.I.Am (who clearly don’t take no shit from UK TV execs he’s never heard of) refused even to take Fincham’s calls.

In English entertainment land you just don’t do this (or you didn’t).

So what beckons for Cheryl, the X Factor, Simon Cowell and ITV?

Cheryl will no doubt be back; maybe at the X Factor, maybe at Sky (owned by News Corporation as is Fox but that doesn’t matter), maybe even with errant husband Ashley Cole of Chelsea (although Will.I.Am almost certainly wouldn’t like that).

The US X Factor looks like an accident waiting to happen, which will alarm sponsor PepsiCo which is paying $60m for the privilege.

Its rival American Idol, which used to feature Cowell, ‘only’ gets 23m viewers which doesn’t seem all that many considering the size of the US TV market so it’s not as though talent shows have a guaranteed big audience.

Cowell has been made to look evil and heartless (fine, that’s his image) but, much worse, weak. Fox has trampled all over him.

And ITV and programme boss Fincham have been made to look foolish and craven, being the last to know what’s going on with their own flagship show.

Cole is extremely popular in the UK and many viewers might well choose to ignore the X Factor in protest at her treatment. Which could cost ITV tens of millions in premium-priced ad revenue.

The more you think about it the more likely a deal between Cheryl and Sky, or maybe even Richard Desmond’s celeb-obsessed channel 5, starts to look.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.