The "Got Talent" format conceived and owned by Simon Cowell's SYCOtv company. A pilot was made in the United Kingdom in 2005, hosted by Paul O'Grady, but after O'Grady's split with ITV, the series was postponed, resulting in America's Got Talent – the first full series of the format.
It has spawned spin-offs in dozens of countries in what is now referred to as the Got Talent format, similar to that described by FremantleMedia of the Idol format. In April 2014, the format was named the world's most successful reality TV format ever by the Guinness World Records.
Anyone of any age with some sort of talent can audition for the show. Acts compete against each other in order to gain the audience support while trying to win the title of The winner of Britain's Got Talent.
Throughout the show, contestants must perform in front of the judges, and each year initial auditions have been held in front of a live audience.
Auditions precede live semi-finals, where the final contestants perform nightly for a week in order to impress the British and Irish public. Each night, two acts from each semi-final (the act with the most votes and another chosen by the judges from the acts in second and third place) progress to the live final which takes place on the Saturday of the following week.
The auditions take place in front of the judges and a live audience at different cities across the UK. Unlike on The X Factor, at any time during the audition, the judges may show disapproval to the act by pressing a buzzer which lights a large red "X" on the stage, indicating that they particularly dislike the act and do not wish the performance to continue. If all the judges press their buzzers, the act must end immediately.
The judging panel give an act a "Yes" if they like them and would like them to return in a subsequent episode, and a "No" if they dislike the act and do not wish to see them again.
Season 8 saw a new golden buzzer, which each judge could press once and only once during the entirety of the auditions. Pressing the buzzer would immediately send the act through to the live semi-finals, regardless of the other judges' opinions.
After the auditions, the judges have to whittle almost 200 successful acts down. All the performers are called back to discover if they have progressed to the live semi-finals.
The semi-finals and final are broadcast live from The Fountain Studios in Wembley (which is also used for The X Factor), with a varying number of semi-finals, followed by the one live final (sometimes split into two episodes over one night).
The remaining acts perform in semi-finals, with the two most popular acts from each semi-final winning a position in the final. After all acts have performed, phone lines open for a short time, while the public vote for the act they think was the best.
After the votes have been counted, the act that has polled the highest number of public votes is automatically placed in the final. The judges then choose between the second and third most popular acts, with the winner of that vote also gaining a place in the final.
All other acts are then eliminated from the competition.
In Season 6, a wildcard element was introduced. This is where judges pick an eliminated act from the semi-finals, and that act is sent through to the final.