October 2001: Having tried to make a killing in the 80s and 90s on the back of popstars such as Sinitta, Simon Cowell decides to diversify out of music production. He becomes a judge on the Simon Fuller-created ITV talent-contest-cum-reality-show, Pop Idol.
September 2004: He's an instant success as a pantomime villain of a panellist. A franchise is born. It's not long before he's branching out on his own, creating a production company, Syco, which in turn creates a new TV talent contest, The X Factor. Again, he proves the biggest draw as a bitchy panellist, alongside his sidekicks Sharon Osbourne and Louis Walsh. The show roars to the top of the ratings.
June 2007: Idol and The X Factor had focused on pop acts. Cowell broadens his horizons and launches Britain's Got Talent, in which novelty acts attempt to impress judges and win votes from the TV audience. The power of the Cowell formula - a mix of talent show, game show, reality TV and audience participation - is illustrated by the third series of BGT in 2009, which makes an unlikely star of the unlovely Glaswegian Susan Boyle.
December 2010: ITV (and, therefore, the UK commercial broadcast sector, generally) has become worryingly reliant on the ratings he delivers. This is underlined during the seventh series of The X Factor, which delivers huge audiences and bumper ad revenues.
May 2011: So where can the restless and innovative Cowell go next? Simples. It has to be the £1 million ITV gameshow to trump all £1 million ITV gameshows. Scheduled to run later in the year on ITV1, Red and Black, fronted not by Cowell but by the former child actors Declan Donnelly and Anthony McPartlin, will be one of the biggest TV events of the year, ITV claims.
Fast forward: April 2013 Red and Black's success is not entirely unqualified, confirming the view of many who believe that Cowell is a better performer than a producer. This speculation proves terribly misplaced as ITV announces Cowell is to manage the network's coverage of the next General Election and will be its inquisitor-in-chief for a series of set-piece Britain's Got Westminster Talent debate shows.