Number of Seasons: 11

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.

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.

On 18 October 2010, ITV announced that Cowell had signed a three-year contract renewing The X Factor until 2013.

Format and Stages

The show is primarily concerned with identifying singing talent, though appearance, personality, stage presence and dance routines are also an important element of many performances. Each judge is assigned one of four categories. For season one, these groups were: girls between 12 and 29, boys between 12 and 29, individuals 30 and over, and groups. Season two's categories were changed to: teens between 12 and 16, young adults between 17 and 24, individuals 25 and older, and groups. For both seasons, some groups were formed from soloists and other groups rejected after the audition process. Through the live shows, the judges act as mentors to their category, helping to decide song choices, styling and staging, while judging contestants from other categories.

The winner of the competition is awarded a recording contract with Syco Music in association with Sony Music Entertainment, which would include cash payments totaling $5 million.

There are five stages to The X Factor:

Stage 1 - Producer's auditions

A round of first auditions is held in front of producers months before the show is aired, either by application and appointment, or at "open" auditions that anyone can attend. These auditions, held at various venues around the UK, attract very large crowds. Should they pass that audition (either for reasons of talent or for the potential of making entertaining television), they are given a "golden ticket" that allows them to sing to a more senior production member. Only candidates who successfully pass that second and third auditions are invited to perform to the judges.

Stage 1 - Judges' auditions

The show is open to solo artists and vocal groups aged 12 and above, with no upper age limit.The contestants audition in front of the judges which must come to a majority vote to allow the contestants to proceed to the next round, in this case, at least three judges have to say yes for the hopeful to go to boot camp.

Stage 2 - Bootcamp

The contestants selected at auditions are further refined through a series of performances at "bootcamp". At bootcamp the judges collaboratively choose either 32 acts (season 1; eight from each category) or 24 acts (season 2; six from each category) for the next round, and only then are told by the show's producers which category they are to mentor.

Stage 3 - Judges' houses

The judges then disband for the "judges' houses" round, where they further reduce their acts on location at a residence with the help of a celebrity guest.

Stage 4 -Live shows (finals)

The finals consist of a series of two live shows, the first featuring the contestants' performances and the second revealing the results of the public voting, culminating in one or more acts being eliminated. Celebrity guest performers also feature regularly.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org