X Factor's final four could all end up winning recording contracts

Cher Lloyd, One Direction, Rebecca Ferguson and Matt Cardle are fierce rivals for the 2010 title but the victor and the three runners-up could all score lucrative deals

The old adage that it's not the winning but the taking part that counts seems to be coming true for this year's X Factor finalists after Simon Cowell indicated all four acts could sign lucrative contracts.

But the real winner is Cowell himself after 20m viewers, the most for any British TV talent show, were expected to tune in to today's big final. The music mogul and show creator has already seen his personal stock rise by £40m to £165m since last year.

While contestants in earlier series fought it out to win a once in a lifetime prize of a £1m record deal, the latest set of finalists – Cher Lloyd, teenage boyband One Direction, Rebecca Ferguson and series favourite Matt Cardle – are all tipped to be signed by record companies.

Mary Byrne, who controversially left the show after a last-minute rule change allowed the judges to put Lloyd through instead of allowing the public vote to decide, has already been signed by Sony to release an album next year.

Last week Cowell said he had not ruled out giving recording contracts to all the final four acts, meaning Lloyd and the other runners up will certainly find themselves back in the limelight.

"I haven't made a decision yet on whether I will give all finalists a record deal," he said. "But it is definitely a possibility. I will just have to see how they perform."

While a £1m contract might sound large, recording contracts have not increased with inflation. By contrast Cowell has seen his coffers overflow, with plans for a US version of the show imminent and a nationwide X Factor live UK tour kicking off in February 2011.

The last two series have seen both winner and runner-up snapped up by Sony Music, which also owns Cowell's own label Syco Music.

Last year's winner, Joe McElderry, and Olly Murs, his more critically acclaimed runner-up, both signed to Syco Music and Epic Records.

The Brit and Mobo award winning boyband JLS were runners-up in 2008 and have since gained three UK No 1 hit singles and released a US single. The 2008 winner, Alexandra Burke, also signed to Epic and has enjoyed chart success.

But being a winner is itself no guarantee of continued success. While 2006 winner Leona Lewis is now reportedly worth £11m, Leon Jackson, who won a year later, was dropped by Syco in 2009 after his single When You Believe reached No 3 in the charts.

While Cowell's X Factor earnings keep growing, so does the backlash.

McElderry failed to top last year's Christmas singles chart after hundreds of thousands of fans, driven by an anti-Cowell Facebook campaign, bought the expletive-heavy Killing in the Name by Rage Against the Machine.

This year, The X Factor's chart dominance is challenged by a number of comedy spin-off campaigns.


Jo Adetunji

The GuardianTramp

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