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The X Factor is a British television music competition to find new singing talent, contested by aspiring singers drawn from public auditions. Created by Simon Cowell, the show began in September 2004 and has since aired annually from August/September through to December. The show is produced by FremantleMedia's Thames and Cowell's production company SYCOtv. It is broadcast on the ITV network in the United Kingdom and TV3 in Ireland, with spin-off behind-the-scenes show The Xtra Factor screened on ITV2. It is the originator of the international The X Factor franchise. The X Factor was devised as a replacement for the highly successful Pop Idol, which was put on indefinite hiatus after its second series, largely because Cowell, who was a judge on Pop Idol, wished to launch a show to which he owned the television rights. The perceived similarity between the two shows later became the subject of a legal dispute. The "X Factor" of the title refers to the undefinable "something" that makes for star quality.
The original judging panel was Cowell, Sharon Osbourne and Louis Walsh. Dannii Minogue joined the panel in series 4, and Cheryl Cole replaced Osbourne in series 5 after her departure. After series 7, Cowell and Cole both left to judge the American version of the show whilst Minogue left the show due to commitments on Australia's Got Talent. Kelly Rowland, Tulisa Contostavlos and Gary Barlow then joined Walsh on the judging panel for series 8, though Rowland announced she would not return for series 9 and was replaced by Nicole Scherzinger. Osbourne later returned in 2013, replacing Contostavlos. Since 2007, the show has been presented by Dermot O'Leary, who replaced original host Kate Thornton. The show is split into a series of phases, following the contestants from auditions through to the grand finale. In the original televised audition phase of the show, contestants sang in an audition room in front of just the judges. From series 6 onwards, auditionees sing on a stage in front of the judges and a live audience. Successful auditionees go through to "bootcamp" and then to "judges' houses", where judges narrow down the acts in their category down to three or four acts to mentor for the live shows, where the public vote for their favourite acts following weekly live performances by the contestants.