Why ‘The X Factor’ Should Try Playing Hard-To-Get

The FOX show's very long and public search for judges is making it look desperate.

On Wednesday (May 2) we learned that Demi Lovato, Avril Lavigne and Miley Cyrus are all being courted as possible replacements for Paula Abdul and Nicole Scherzinger on “The X Factor” judging panel.

But don’t get your knickers in a twist — “The X Factor” originated in Britain, after all — Britney Spears is reportedly still in the game too, though reports that she “insisted on various perks that have bogged down negotiations” are floating around.

So to be clear, Britney might still be in, Demi is close to a deal and Miley and Avril are on the table. A few months ago, we could have replaced the Demi with Janet Jackson and Miley with Mariah Carey. And prior to her tragic passing in February, Whitney Houston was also being considered for the panel, according to remaining judges L.A. Reid and Simon Cowell .

Never before has the casting process for a reality television show judge been so exhaustingly long and public. Sure, before Jennifer Lopez signed on to “American Idol” there were rumors that she was being pursued, but no public statements were made until she had signed on the dotted line. And while the constant stream of potential candidates being leaked to the press or talked about openly by Reid or Cowell may itself be a negotiation technique — most likely to try to ambush Spears into signing on for fear of being replaced — is also doing something very specific to the troubled signing competition.

It is making “The X Factor” look desperate. Really desperate.

With the FOX upfronts just two weeks away and filming on the production scheduled to begin early this summer, it’s not exactly encouraging that the show cannot secure above-the-title talent. An upfront is a showcase hosted at the start of important advertising sales periods by network executives, and they are attended by the press and, more importantly, major advertisers.

“The X Factor” is a costly show for FOX, and the deal on the table for Spears, reported to be $15 million per season , certainly isn’t bringing the budget down. Watching the never-ending parade of potential judges unfurl and then walk away — and keep in mind that the show is also casting about for two hosts to replace Steve Jones — cannot be serving the show well with eagle-eyed advertisers watching closely to see where their money will be best spent.

Conducting contract negations so publicly is always a risky endeavor, but in this specific case, “The X Factor” has backed itself into a corner. The show looked silly when talks with music legends Jackson and Carey fell through after so much public discussion, and in making the details of Spears’ deal public and then failing to (at this point) lock her in, execs at “The X Factor” look borderline inept.

There’s been some discussion that by tossing Miley, Avril and Demi’s names into the ring, the show is trying to make Spears seem replaceable and get her to back down on her alleged “various perks.”

It’s a dirty way to conduct business and ultimately doesn’t speak well of what is going on behind the scenes in the show’s search for its new panelists. If that is indeed the case, it’s like the show is grasping at straws. And that’s not the best look when you are walking into the FOX upfronts seeking advertisers on the heels of an underperforming first season.