LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Simon Cowell gave his talent show "The X Factor" a major shake-up, showing the door to host Steve Jones, judge Nicole Scherzinger, and even his old friend Paula Abdul after a lackluster first season on U.S. television.
Cowell and broadcaster Fox confirmed on Tuesday that British host Jones, and former Pussycat Dolls singer Scherzinger would not be returning for the second season of the show in September.
Abdul -- Cowell's old "American Idol" sparring partner -- was also voted off in what some industry watchers called a bloodbath for the TV show that failed to measure up to its hype last year and struggled to achieve the top-level viewership promised by Cowell.
"Yes, it's true; I won't be returning to The X Factor next season," Abdul said in a statement on Tuesday. "I've learned through my longevity in this industry that business decisions often times override personal considerations. Simon (Cowell) and I, along with Fox and Fremantle, have been communicating about this for a while now, and I have absolute understanding of the situation."
Abdul said that Cowell "will remain a dear friend of mine."
Cowell gave "a massive thank you to Paula, Nicole and Steve for being part of 'The X Factor' last year."
"Now is the time to thank them all for everything they did last year," he added in a statement
Fox reality programming chief Mike Darnell called Abdul "a remarkable talent" and said the network appreciated her contributions.
The shake-up leaves only Cowell, the "X Factor" creator and acerbic judge, and record producer Antonio "L.A." Reid left on the panel of the singing contest.
The ouster of Jones, seen as wooden and flustered in the live shows, was expected. He broke the news on Twitter, saying on Monday, "I won't be hosting next seasons 'X Factor' which is a shame but I can't complain as I've had a great time."
Scherzinger had also drawn criticism from audiences and some of her critiques were openly ridiculed by Cowell. But the exit of Abdul -- whom Cowell had courted assiduously for the show -- took industry watchers by surprise.
"Shocked to see Simon has fired Paula Abdul, Nicole and Steve from the X-Factor," tweeted Nigel Lythgoe, executive producer of "American Idol".
"X Factor Shake-Up continues! Paul Abdul ALSO out!" wrote TVLine.com. Industry website TheWrap.com called the firings an "X-Factor implosion".
There was no word on Tuesday on who would replace the three but speculation swiftly fell on singer Mariah Carey. Cowell said last year that she had been his top choice but she was sidelined because she was pregnant. Carey gave birth to twins in April.
Cowell launched "The X Factor" in the United States boasting that it would beat "American Idol" as the nation's most-watched TV show. But it drew less than 13 million viewers -- about half those who tune into "Idol" -- and many TV critics found it over-produced and too similar to "Idol".
Cowell admitted in December that he had been "a little too cocky" when he told brought the show over to the United States after years of success in Britain.
But he also told reporters that it would improve in its second season and Fox executives said in January that Cowell was planning "tweaks" for the new episodes ahead.
Reporting By Jill Serjeant; editing by Patricia Reaney and Bob Tourtellotte