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Simon Cowell has made it official:

Demi Lovato will not return to The X Factor in 2014.

Talk of the singer departing this reality competition surfaced on Tuesday, as insiders told People Lovato wanted to focus entirely on her music career next year - and now the show's producer has confirmed the news.

Demi Lovato with Simon Cowell

"I always knew she wasn't coming back because she's touring," Cowell told reporters yesterday.

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Look away, Lauren Silverman. Look away...

In a new commercial for The X Factor in Israel, model Bar Refaeli drives over to producer Simon Cowell and flirts up a serious storm as she introduces him to the judges on this country's version of the program: Ivri Lider, Shiri Maimon, Rami Fortis, and Moshe Peretz.

Refaeli, of course, is no stranger to racy promos.

Folks are still talking about the GoDaddy Super Bowl spot in which she makes out with some lucky nerd.

The X Factor will premiere in Israel (and the United States) later this month. Watch the sexy commercial now:

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Nothing is official yet, but Simon Cowell made it clear in an interview this week:

He'd love to have Demi Lovato back as an X Factor panelist.

Demi Lovato with a Smile

“I liked having Demi on the show," producer Simon Cowell said Monday on Ryan Seacrest's radio show. "She’s fun to work with."

Of course, even if/when Lovato does return, L.A. Reid and Britney Spears have departed as panelists, while it's impossible to believe Khloe Kardashian will return as co-host.

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If Rihanna can find time to stop Tweeting photos of herself pantsless, Simon Cowell may have a job for her.

With L.A. Reid announcing his departure from The X Factor, at least one spot on next season's judging table will be vacant - and The Sun says Cowell hopes it can be filled by Rihanna.

Rihanna in Germany

"Simon is a huge admirer of Rihanna and knows she’s star quality," a source tells the newspaper. "As well as bringing an aura to the panel thanks to her current standing in music, she is also feisty and will make great TV. Simon loves these sort of characters.”

Rihanna is a Barbados native and Cowell often vacations there around the holidays, the insider adds. Expect a meeting to take place over the next few weeks.

But should it? Do you think Rihanna would make a strong X Factor judge?

 

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A few days prior to their season premieres, the rivalry between The Voice and The X Factor is growing seriously intense.

First, the NBC competition announced it would air a special Wednesday installment next week, a programming decision clearly aimed at hurting the opening edition of The X Factor Season 2, which kicks off September 12.

Simon Cowell's response? Citing a "gentleman's agreement" between programs, he blasted the move as "cynical, cold-hearted" and an "unprofessional way of doing business."

The X Factor Team

Going off to TMZ, Cowell said this is a "dirty" last second trick by NBC and added that one of his new judges will be especially angry over the counter-programming.

"Britney's not going to appreciate the fact that Christina - who has been a bit of a rival - isn't allowing Britney to have a night of her own."

Why does Simon think The Voice is going up against The X Factor's premier? Because it's scared, of course.

"The reason they've done this is they don't want people to see X Factor because they've heard how good the series is. They don't want their audience to see Britney Spears. They don't want their audience to see Demi Lovato."

Ummm... of course NBC doesn't want its audience to watch a Fox program. Not exactly breaking news there, Simon.

Which of these competitions will you tune in for next week?

 

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Fox has one question for viewers: Are you ready?

During last night's American Idol finale, the network aired its first promo for season two of The X Factor. It included, of course, shots of the show's two new judges: Britney Spears and Demi Lovato. It also featured a cackling Simon Cowell asking folks, what the heck was I thinking?

We have no idea, as neither Britney nor Demi seem like ideal choices for a live competition that involves banter, quick wit and the ability to actually critique others. But, hey, we'll be happy to be proven wrong.

Watch the trailer now:

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Britney Spears is somewhat intimidated by Simon Cowell and is insisting on a “no bullying” clause in her contract with The X Factor, according to reports.

The pop superstar is about to sign a $15 million deal to join the talent show, but not before she was assured that she won’t fall victim to Cowell's attacks.

He can be a little intimidating, after all.

“Britney has huge respect for Simon as a producer but at the same time she can't help but be a little bit scared of him,” says a source close to the singer.

  • Brit Sings
  • Cowell Photo

The source in Spears' camp says she is ready for the surprising new project, and is going to great lengths to ensure that the role she plays is to her liking.

“She’s excited about being part of the show but also mindful of the kind of role she is going to play on the X Factor judging panel," says the insider.

“Britney doesn’t want to be the one trading verbal blows with Simon; she knows she would come off worse. She wants to be projected in the right way."

"Britney wants to be the one nurturing talent. She’ll leave the nasty stuff to Simon.”

[Photos: WENN.com]

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Beyonce... Pink... Mariah Carey... Fergie... Britney Spears.

Big names continue to be bantered about for the two open judging spots on The X Factor, but Simon Cowell and L.A. Reid told reporters on a conference call yesterday that they couldn't comment on any of the rumors. Except for Reid saying this:

"The only thing you can count on is we will likely have two girls. That we can confirm."

X Factor Logo

Cowell, meanwhile, said the show would find some way to honor the late Whitney Houston:

"I have a feeling that they may do a Whitney show on The Voice or Idol before us. We have to do it in a different way. We will continue to pay tribute to Whitney. We love her, we love her songs."

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The Voice reigning champion Javier Colon has accepted Simon Cowell's idea for the ultimate musical showdown - a battle between TV singing competition winners!

Simon suggested pitting the champs of X Factor, The Voice and American Idol together in a singing smackdown, with the goal of determining who reigns supreme.

Javier took to Twitter to accept Simon's "super final" challenge:

"So @simoncowell recently proposed a face off btw Idol/Xfactor/Voice winners. I really respect the other shows and winners a lot but if U want a battle I'm IN!"

Javier Colon Image

American Idol producer Nigel Lythgoe also responded on Twitter last week, but he was less willing, making a thinly-veiled claim to Idol's superiority:

"@simoncowell suggests the IDOL winner should take on the voice and x-factor winners. The problem is the Idol winner will be a star by then."

Ouch! Idol is really digging in against its critics these days.

With X Factor allowing managed talent to participate this season, and The Voice getting bigger ratings than ever this winter, the ante has been upped.

Will past and future champions step up to the plate?! This show would likely never happen for myriad reasons, but we ask you: Which show is the best?

 

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Paula Abdul, Nicole Scherzinger and Steve Jones may be out, but Simon Cowell is in. All in. He's the man behind The X Factor and, to his credit, the first to admit that season one did not go as planned.

"Can I do it better than last year? Yes. Will it be better? Yes. But that takes hard work and a lot of planning," the judge/producer says in a new chat with Extra.

So... who might Simon bring in to assist with that task? Did he really offer Beyonce $100 million to join the panel? Cowell addresses these topics in the following interview excerpts.

Simon Cowell Photograph

On letting Abdul go: “I would’ve liked to have kept her. She was very gracious and I said that to her. She understands it’s business; it’s never personal.”

Did he really make that offer to Beyonce? “I have no clue where that came from... The budget for the show is $100 million. That would never, ever happen. It’s absolute nonsense... Even if you had that kind of money. I wouldn’t spend $100 million on one person.”

Does he want Mariah Carey as a judge? "I would love her. But you can’t expect someone who’s just had two kids to make the kind of commitment you would need on this show.”

Madonna? "Great” but “expensive.”

Katy Perry? "Fun - and she’s feisty.”

About those judges on The Voice... “I would ask how many records have they made, how many artists have they discovered. That’s where we have to be different on the judging panel. It’s very important that you have people on the panel that have actually signed and made artists successful all over the world, not just have made hit records yourself. That’s why you have a judging panel.”