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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - "X Factor" creator Simon Cowell said on Monday he was probably "too cocky" when he launched the U.S. TV talent show earlier this year, boasting it would overtake his old program, No. 1-rated "American Idol."
But Cowell, who admits being confident by nature, pledged that the two-part 'X Factor' finale this week will be worth watching and any of the three finalists is worthy of the unprecedented prize of a $5 million recording contract.
The acerbic British entrepreneur and "X Factor" judge said that Justin Bieber, rapper Pitbull and R&B singer Ne-Yo would be among the superstars performing on Thursday's finale, before the winner of the first season is revealed.
"The X Factor" launched in the United States in September after months of hype from Cowell, who predicted it would beat "American Idol" as the most-watched show on U.S. TV.
He had his reasons for the boast. "X Factor," after all, has been the most popular TV show in Britain for several years and winners have generally gone straight to the top of the pop music charts. In the U.S., "American Idol" is no different, and Cowell was a key force behind its success.
Yet, 'X Factor' has underperformed Cowell's expectations.
Although it has been a hit for broadcaster Fox drawing about 12 million viewers weekly, its audience is less than half that of "American Idol", which returns to Fox in January.
"I think I probably came here a little too cocky, but I am cocky by nature. I had come off the back of a massive hit in the U.K., had the adrenaline (and) couldn't wait to put the show on here, and it is going to take a little longer than I thought," Cowell said at a news conference ahead of the final.
"But with these three finalists ... this will be the greatest final we have ever been in ... This is $5 million talent here," he said. "We are going to put on a show this week. And it's going to be better next year."
Ballad singer Melanie Amaro, 19, bluesy Josh Krajcik, 30, and rapper Chris Rene, 28, will sing for the "X Factor" prize on Wednesday.
Cowell said each finalist would sing a duet with a surprise superstar as part of Wednesday's competition. The winner will be chosen by public vote and announced after a two-hour finale on December 22.
All three finalists are expected to get recording contracts, but only the winner will be assured of the $5 million deal.
Judge and record producer Antonio (L.A.) Reid said he was proud and happy of the singers who had made it to the final after four months of nationwide auditions and live shows.
"They are all amazingly talented, unique in their own right (and) each one of them has a distinct competitive advantage," Reid said.
"I think they represent us well. They look very modern, big on talent and loads of charisma, so I couldn't be happier."
Reporting by Jill Serjeant: Editing by Bob Tourtellotte