LOS ANGELES (CBS) — Auditions for a new singing competition series hosted by former “American Idol” judge Simon Cowell got underway Sunday at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena.

“The X Factor” is the first U.S. series where a contestant will be front of an audience of thousands the first time he or she auditions for the judges, a concept that originated in the United Kingdom.

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“We made a decision a couple of years ago in the U.K. that I couldn’t fit in an audition room with two other people and judge properly,” Cowell told reporters during a conference call in February. “I’ve done it too many years and I wanted to change things up.

“So I made a decision that we would change the audition, not just in front of the judges, but in fact 4,000 or 5,000 people in an arena. Essentially, it was supposed to be similar to them doing their first concert. It really helped me to show who could handle the pressure, who was a good performer.”

Groups and singers as young as 12 years old can audition for the series, which will premiere in the fall.

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“I like the idea that a 12-year-old on this show can compete with an older singer and a singing group,” Cowell said, adding that “I’ve never believed there should be a cut-off age for talent.”

In addition to signing a professional recording contract, the series winner will receive a $5 million prize.

Auditions will also be held in the Chicago, Dallas, Miami, Newark, N.J. and Seattle areas.

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