Britney Spears’ Potential ‘X Factor’ Exit: How Much Would It Hurt?

Two weeks after Antonio “L.A.”Reid confirmed that the second season of the U.S. version of “The X Factor” would be his last on the judges panel, rumors of Britney Spears’ exit from the show spread like wildfire on Thursday (Dec. 27), following a report from Us Weekly that painted the pop star’s fate as all but sealed. Although Spears has indicated that she would like to return to the Fox reality competition in 2013 for a second season as a judge, a source tells the magazine that fellow judge and show mastermind Simon Cowell is actively trying to push the veteran singer out: “He wanted crazy Britney, but he got boring Britney.”

A spokesperson for the show has told the Los Angeles Times that it’s simply too early to answer questions regarding Spears’ future with the show. “No one has discussed next year’s judging panel,” says the “X Factor” rep. “Any reports otherwise are complete speculation.” Whether Spears returns for Season 3 or is “fired,” as headlines have announced today, the pop singer’s potential departure from “The X Factor” comes after a mixed season that failed to live up to the hype that came with the addition of Spears and Demi Lovato as judges.

After the British “X Factor” generated hitmakers like One Direction, Leona Lewis and Olly Murs beginning in 2007, Cowell expressed the desire to see the stateside “X Factor” surpass the ratings of his previous Fox smash, “American Idol,” and rule the reality ratings roost upon Season 1’s September 2011 debut. That didn’t happen. 12 million viewers watched Season 1 each week according to Nielsen, compared to 15.8 million weekly viewers for NBC’s “The Voice.” And Season 1 winner Melanie Amaro, whose debut album will not make its way onto shelves by the end of 2012 as initially expected, has thus far been unable to establish herself as an organic star like recent “Idol” champs Scotty McCreery and Phillip Phillips.

Unfortunately, that legacy is still a bit unsatisfactory. The two-hour September premiere of Season 2 of “The X Factor” underwhelmed in ratings, averaging 8.5 million viewers and a 3.3 rating among adults 18-49 — which was a 25 percent drop from the 2011 series premiere, according to affiliate ratings. The show’s ratings grew as the vocal talent improved, and by the time that Fox announced in October that “The X Factor” had been renewed for a third season and had added Khloe Kardashian-Odom and Mario Lopez as live show co-hosts, the 18-49 demographic was up to a 3.9 rating and the total viewership averaged 10.6 million. But the

Season 2 finale on Dec. 20, which garnered 9.6 million viewers and a 3.1 rating, was down 18 percent from the final episode of Season 1. Adding insult to injury, the Season 3 finale of “The Voice” easily trumped its Fox counterpart when it aired two nights earlier.

Of course, the Season 2 talent was coupled with a judges panel and a pair of hosts that produced neither scintillating entertaining nor keen vocal insight.

“Crazy Britney” should not have been expected or desired upon Spears’ entry into the “X Factor” world, but the pop superstar’s presence on the show was admittedly less beguiling than originally anticipated.

Too often was she stuck back-patting the competitors when she should have been mentoring them; as the source tells Us Weekly, Spears’ job was not to be outrageous, but it was also not to “say ‘amazing’ and offer half-claps.” Along with the unexceptional ratings and the $15 million price tag that accompanied Spears’ involvement with the show, it’s no wonder that her departure is at least under discussion.

Tate Stevens Wins ‘The X Factor’ and $5 Million Contract

Tate Stevens

In recent weeks, the balance of power on “The X Factor” shifted, moving from country hopeful Tate Stevens to budding teen star Carly Rose Sonenclar.

On Thursday night’s “X Factor” finale, Stevens took back the top spot when it mattered most, clinching the title of the show’s second winner and the coveted $5 million recording contract.

“This is the best day of my life,” said a joyous Stevens, 37, who closed the show with one of his signature songs, Chris Young’s “Tomorrow.”

Stevens’s triumph marked a win for mentor L.A. Reid, who announced last week that he would be leaving the show at season’s end.

Sonenclar, the 13-year-old New Yorker with a diva-esque voice often considered mature beyond her years, took second, despite being referred to as the favorite by many. She and mentor Britney Spears made a tearful exchange following the results, though the young talent took her loss admirably, and is expected to sign some sort of recording deal in the future.

Despite a strong showing during Wednesday’s final performance show, five-piece girl group Fifth Harmony finished third, the girls learning of their fate about halfway through the show.

Taylor Swift And One Direction’s Harry Styles Take A Romantic Stroll In NYC!

After weeks of speculation, we can now pretty much confirm that a budding romance between Taylor Swift and One Direction’s Harry Styles (otherwise known as HAYLOR) is ON! Because if a stroll through NYC’s famed Central Park Zoo doesn’t read “ROMANCE,” we’re not sure what does. (Fine, the only way their date could have been more romantic is if they’d been on a horse and carriage ride, but they’ve gotta keep a low profile. We get it.)

In all seriousness though, you can totally tell by the giant smiles on their faces/the ridiculously blatant puppy dog eyes that something is a brewin’ and it’s definitely not coffee (ba dum ching!). On one hand, we’re all about this new relationship for Taylor — Harry’s cute, won’t be thrown by her fame, and HELLO THE ACCENT. On the other hand, the dude’s only 18 years old and a known player, so how long can this whole thing really last? Whatever — by now you know the drill: Haylor will date, they’ll break up, Harry will rebound with some hot older pop star (he’s rumored to like slightly older ladies), and Taylor Swift will write a song about it that will boost both her and One Direction’s album sales significantly. So really, everyone wins!

Taylor Swift and One Direction’s Harry Styles: Are They Dating?

Taylor Swift appears to be taking her love life in a new direction.

The “Never Ever Getting Back Together”singer is seemingly taking her lyrics to heart as she moves on from recent ex, Conor Kennedy, and enjoys the company of One Direction, Harry Styles.

“I had to literally do a double-take,” an onlooker tells PEOPLE of finding Styles, 18, with Swift, 22, on the set of The X Factor Thursday morning.

Styles was on hand to watch Swift rehearse the debut of “State of Grace,” which she performed later that night on the Fox reality show.

“He was smiling at her while she rehearsed. When she was done he jumped up on stage, picked her up, put her over his shoulder and carried her off stage,” the onlooker says. “The whole crew was really surprised.”

The young singers were also spotted by X Factor host Mario Lopez, who says he was slapped on the back by Styles during Swift’s rehearsal.

“I said, ‘What are you doing here,’ ” Lopez said on his 104.3 MY FM radio show Friday. “And he sort of [pointed] toward Taylor.”

Lopez went on to say he later saw the two “hand-in-hand.”

A telling sign of the budding relationship may have been a look Styles shared with his band-mate Niall Horan a week earlier after Horan told PEOPLE his favorite song of 2012 was Swift’s “Never Ever Getting Back Together.”

When asked if he would ever date Swift, Horan gave a small laugh, looked at Styles and answered with a succinct, “no.”

Nicole Scherzinger Joins The X Factor UK!

Nicole Scherzinger may not have gone over well as a judge on The X Factor in the United States, but this former Pussycat Doll is headed overseas.

To judge the same exact show!

Indeed, Scherzinger has officially signed on as a panelists for The X Factor UK, saying today in a statement:

“I’m so excited to join the UK X Factor family. It’s where I got my start, so it feels great to come full circle. I can’t wait to see what talent the UK has to offer and to help inspire and bring out the best in these artists.”

Nicole Scherzinger Photograph

The singer will be doling out advice from Kelly Rowland’s former seat. Much to the satisfaction of Peter Fincham, Director of Television at IT, who responded to the news with:

“Nicole will bring her wealth of experience, both as a solo artist, and as a member of a group, to this year’s judging panel. We’re delighted that she’ll be joining us for the forthcoming series.”