The X-factor is a television music competition franchise created by Simon Cowell.

The X-factor originated in the United Kingdom in 2004, where it was created to replace the show 'Pop idol' that aired from 2011 to 2003. Today, the show is held in various countries, such as the USA, Denmark or New Zealand. It airs each year on the British ITC network from August/September to December.

It features aspiring singers drawn from public auditions. The title of the show refers to the "special something" that cannot be defined, that a person has in order to make him or her star material. The contestants gain notoriety by their high public appearance that the show generates, especially at the later stages of it. The show is widely followed and people give their opinions on the contestants on social media and news platforms.

The original panel of judges consisted of Louis Walsh, Sharon Osbourne and Cowell but changes throughout the seasons of the show. Season 11 (2014) featured Cowell, Sheryl Cole and Mel B as judges.

The people who succeed at their auditions go through to "bootcamp" and then to "judges' houses", where judges narrow mentor them for the live shows. Weekly live shows are performed by the contestants.

It was first broadcast in the United Kingdom in 2004. Simon Fuller, the creator of Pop Idol, filed a lawsuit against the producers Fremantlemedia, its creator Simon Cowell as well as his companies Simco and Syco, claiming that X-Factor copied the format of Pop Idol. The outcome of the hearing was important as it could have had an important impact on the copyright of the shows aired abroad. However, the hearing was adjourned very quickly, and an out of court settlement was reached in November 2005.

The show's foreign versions have also been criticized: in Denmark for instance, it was claimed that it was an unfair show because participants had to cover their own travelling costs and were forbidden to participate in any other musical event for three months- regardless of the fact that they passed the first round or not.

An international version of the X-factor was broadcast in Indonesia on August 24 2013. It featured winners and runner ups from different X-factors around the world (Indonesia, USA, Australia and the United Kingdom). However, the show was simply a music showcase, and no winner was announced.