Gone from "The X Factor" three years and "American Idol" nearly six, the world's most famous TV judge is back: Simon Cowell will join "America's Got Talent" next summer, for its 11th season.
Separately, the NBC summer hit is also expected to move from New York -- where it has run at Radio City Music Hall since 2013 -- to Los Angeles. NBC declined to comment Thursday on the future venue.
In a statement early Thursday, Cowell said, "I am really thrilled to be joining 'America's Got Talent' next season. What I love about this show is that it's open to absolutely anyone. America has some fantastic talent just waiting to be discovered, and I would like that talent to come to our show, including any dogs who can sing!"
"AGT," one of NBC's most successful shows, is produced by Cowell's Syco Entertainment, a joint venture with Sony Music. Cowell is also executive producer.
The move is a surprise, indeed -- except to those who religiously follow Howard Stern's SiriusXM radio show, where Stern revealed last spring that Cowell had lobbied to replace him as judge on the series. (Stern ended his four-year run on the show at the end of this past season in mid-September.)
Cowell was the subject of a Sony Pictures email -- hacked during the cyber attack on the company in November 2014 -- in which Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton told NBCUniversal chief Steve Burke that Cowell was interested in the job as host. Cowell has long hosted the U.K. edition, "Britain's Got Talent," which he also produces. Moreover, Cowell suggested moving the program to Los Angeles.
Stern spoke of the leaked email during his show, but has long maintained he quit "AGT" because he was too busy in his other ventures.
In a videotaped message Thursday, Cowell -- a new father at 56, with graying stubble and appearing a little more wizened since his "Idol" days -- confessed this: "I always secretly wanted to be on [AGT]."