Simon Cowell only ever intended 'Pop Idol' to be a ''marketing exercise''.

The music mogul never used to pay much attention to the ITV music competition as a programme to discover new talent until he realised so many people enjoyed the format.

When asked which is more important to him, one of his talent shows or the aftermath, he said: ''Both really. When I started I would have said it was what happened afterwards because 'Pop Idol' was only intended as a marketing exercise to find artists. It was very cynical.

''The show was a process and then over the years, because people enjoyed the show so much, I then paid equal attention the show and to make it as entertaining as possible; and obviously try and find artists off the back of it as well.''

Simon admits he ''got lucky'' during the first series of 'Pop Idol' in 2001/2002 when he discovered Will Young and Gareth Gates - who finished first and second respectively in the competition - but he is surprised to see similar shows in other countries don't always unearth any big stars.

He added to the Independent newspaper: ''There are some countries that have made these shows and every year it's like someone winning 'Big Brother'; in other words - nothing happens. You never hear from them again. With me, year one, I got lucky with Will Young and Gareth Gates as they both sold millions of records. Year one on 'American Idol' we found Kelly Clarkson.

''Year one on 'Britain's Got Talent' we had Paul Potts. So over the years we have found people who have become stars.''