Simon Cowell returns to X Factor

Burnley and Pendle Citizen: Simon Cowell will be returning to the UK for The X Factor Simon Cowell will be returning to the UK for The X Factor

X Factor supremo Simon Cowell is returning for the next UK series of the show later this year.

The music mogul said he was "absolutely thrilled to be returning" to the hit show and bosses will be hoping his reappearance will boost viewing figures.

He quit the UK panel in order to establish the series across the Atlantic, but US audiences have not met expectations and viewing figures at home have also slumped since he left with the show regularly beaten by BBC rival Strictly Come Dancing.

Simon said: " I'm absolutely thrilled to be returning to The X Factor UK. It's been three years since I last judged the competition and I'm excited to find a global superstar again.

"The UK X Factor has set the benchmark in finding worldwide superstars over the years - including One Direction, Leona Lewis, Cher Lloyd, Olly Murs, JLS and Little Mix."

There has been speculation about who will join Cowell on the panel after Gary Barlow bowed out at the end of the last series and veteran panellist Louis Walsh said he was to leave, although he has indicated that he may have had second thoughts.

Simon added: " Despite all the rumours, ITV and the producers have not decided on the rest of the judging panel quite yet. You'll just have to wait and see."

The show will return to TV in Autumn with auditions from June.

ITV's director of television Peter Fincham said: "It's fantastic news that Simon is returning to The X Factor. We are all very much looking forward to him re-joining the judging panel later this year."

The audience has dropped markedly since Simon left the series. For his last series in 2010, there was an average audience of 17.2 million watching Matt Cardle triumph, but by last year the climax of the series drew 9.7 million.

The show's finale in 2005 - which pulled in 9.3 million - was the only one to fare worse than that of 2013.

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