You might have thought Simon Cowell had rooted out enough talent from the bedrooms of Britain with his hit shows The X Factor and Britain's Got Talent. But in his never-ending quest for the Next Big Thing, the pop impresario is launching a new "global audition", this time through the medium of YouTube.
Record executives already spend a lot of time scouring the clip-sharing site, watching teenagers singing at their hairbrushes, in the hope of finding a future star. Now Cowell is inviting the wannabes to submit their clips to him direct.
The result will be a year-long online competition, called "The You Generation". Cowell's company has created a YouTube channel, which goes live on Wednesday, that will make "call outs" every fortnight. They are not looking just for singers. Any marketable talent will be invited: make-up artists, chefs, dancing dogs – all the usual. Cowell recently began exploring food with his new ITV show, Food Glorious Food.
Every fortnight, one winner will be selected and rewarded with what Cowell's company, Syco, is calling "an amazing prize". The overall winner will be promised their name in lights, and presumably some kind of recording contract.
"We are calling it an exciting experiment," says a Syco spokesman, who is cagey on details. "The truth is we don't know where it could go." The competition will not be limited to the UK, but will reach 26 countries, including the US, Ireland, Russia and much of South-east Asia, and there are likely to be different searches for various talents, including TV presenting and cooking.
A panel of experts, tailored for each contest, will choose the top entrants, with winners' efforts being highlighted on YouTube. Skype has already been signed up as a partner, though it's not known how much money the company has put up.
More than 51,000 people have subscribed before it goes live – with one Syco source keen to stress it was a "soft launch" because "we genuinely are not sure where this could go".