Simon Cowell: Why I’m Letting 12-Year-Olds Do X-Factor

 Ken McKay/Rex/Rex USA

He's back…almost!

Fans who've missed Simon Cowell since he left American Idol last year got a glimpse of the curmudgeonly judge during a Super Bowl spot promoting his new singing competition, The X Factor. Now additional details are emerging about the upcoming Fox show, which unlike Idol, will be open to anyone over age 12.

"I like the idea that a 12-year-old on this show can compete with an older singer and a singing group," Cowell told in 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."

On Monday, Cowell ( along with Sony Music, FremantleMedia North America, and the network) put out a call for auditions to begin in L.A. March 27. Bands and solo contestants are encouraged to audition.

Another deviation from Idol? Would-be performers will audition not only in front of panel of judges but also an audience of thousands.

The X Factor debuted in the U.K. in 2004 and has been the number one program there for its entire seven-year run.

Adds Cowell: "I'm doing this show in America because I genuinely believe we can find a superstar."

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