10 surprising Britain’s Got Talent facts you probably didn’t know

bgt fern

As Britain’s Got Talent celebrates its new series, we take a look at the show’s often surprising history.

Including how it almost never made it to air in the first place.

Cheryl Cole was originally a judge

Cheryl on The Greatest Dancer
Cheryl on The Greatest Dancer (Credit: BBC)

Before she joined X Factor, Simon Cowell wanted Cheryl for Britain’s Got Talent but she apparently wasn’t too keen so opted for the singing show the next year.


And then Fern Britton

Fern Britton

Amanda Holden wasn’t even the second choice with Fern Britton replacing Cheryl next in the first ever unaired pilot of Britain’s Got Talent.


Oh, and Paul O’Grady was the host

Paul O'Grady

Ant and Dec who? Paul O’Grady was originally lined up to present BGT under the name of Paul’s Got Talent. He said: “I told the producers they were having a joke if they thought I would front a show with that title.”


ITV weren’t sure about the show at first

Ant & Dec, Bruno Toniol, Alesha Dixon, Amanda Holden and Simon Cowell on set of Britain's Got Talent
Ant & Dec, Bruno Toniol, Alesha Dixon, Amanda Holden and Simon Cowell

Not only did many celebs get cold feet about the show, ITV weren’t all that impressed either and shelved the original version. TV exec Lorraine Heggessey recalled: “ITV turned it down and none of us could believe it. Even though Simon Cowell was one of their biggest stars, even he couldn’t persuade them to take it.” Only after its success in America did they commission a series.


The judges used to mark the acts, Strictly style

Simon Cowell on Britain's Got Talent
Simon Cowell. ©Syco/Thames

The original format of Britain’s Got Talent was VERY different, with plans for the judges to score the acts in what was known as the ‘talent totaliser’. Furthermore, it was first planned that the studio audience would decide the results using keypads.


The most watched auditions

It’s no real shock to learn that Susan Boyle’s audition is the most watched EVER, amassing close to 1 BILLION views over the years.


The show has had eleven judges over the years

In all there have been a total of eleven judges on Britain’s Got Talent over the past twelve series, excluding those that didn’t appear on TV. As well as the current line up, they are Piers Morgan, David Hassellhoff, Michael McIntyre, Kelly Brook, Louis Walsh, Carmen Electra, Ant and Dec.


There have been almost 4,000 Ofcom complaints

Over more than a decade years, Britain’s Got talent has prompted some 3,700 complaints to TV watchdog Ofcom. Many involved the ‘second dog scandal’ from 2015’s final, for which ITV offered refunds to voters.


There was a live tour but it was axed

The Britain’s Got Talent had a short-lived live tour much like its X Factor sister but didn’t enjoy the same success. The arena shows were axed after 2011 due to poor ticket sales following Jai McDowall’s win. However, rumour has it the tour could return – watch this space.


Finalists have sold over 5 million albums

Of the 30 plus finalists, more than half have been singers. Acts from Britain’s Got Talent have achieved more than 5.3 MILLION certified album sales in the UK at the latest count, with more than 2 million from Susan Boyle alone.