The figures are in. The results are out. And although Saturday saw one pop group win the X Factor, there was still one big loser overall. The show itself.

Despite extensive trailing from ITV, this year’s final on Saturday night drew in 4 million fewer viewers than the 2010 finale, just 13.1 million compared to last year’s 17.2 million. Visitor numbers to the X Factor website have also dropped a considerable 38% this year.

An embarrassment for Gary Barlow and his fellow judges, certainly, but also an indication that the X Factor formula might just have lost its shine.

As debate continues to rage over the reasons behind this year’s disappointing viewing figures, ITV executives will undoubtedly be asking themselves what they can do to boost the series’ popularity in 2012.

…an unlucky year with talent…

This year’s contestants have been cited as one of the principles factors in the programme’s decline, with one TV expert telling the Guardian that the show “had an unlucky year with talent”, or lack thereof.

Concerns were also raised that the finalists were failing to commit themselves fully to the rehearsals and preparation required, with a knock on effect on the quality of the live shows.

But the contestants were not the only X Factor figures on the receiving end of blame: this year’s new panel of judges also got their fair share of criticism. With X Factor creator Simon Cowell in the United States to promote the American version of the show, it was left to Gary Barlow to lead his fellow judges, Kelly Rowland, Tulisa Contostavlos and Louis Walsh, through the series.

Destiny’s Child star Rowland was heavily criticised for missing live shows due to illness and taking time off to promote her own solo album. N-Dubz singer Tulisa also came under fire for accusing a contestant of being unkind to fellow finalists.

…exploiting fans for advertising revenue…

Viewers are also thought to have tired of the ongoing bickering between Walsh and Barlow over the quality of the acts and the direction the show was taking.

Blame for the drop in popularity has also been aimed at ITV and the show’s executives directly, amidst claims the show was simply exploiting fans for advertising revenue rather than focusing on viewers’ enjoyment. The frequency and length of advertising breaks may have spurred viewers to lose patience with the show and switch off.

It has been estimated that ITV charged the equivalent of £8,000 per second for advertising in the X Factor breaks. British dairy firm Yeo Valley is just one of the companies to report boosted sales after its adverts were aired during the show’s evening slot.

The show was also criticised for extending the final over two nights unnecessarily for the sake of revenue. “How can they drag this out for a total of 2 hours? Just close the phone lines and read out the winner already!” tweeted one exasperated fan. “Hats off to Xfactor producers no one can pad like they can,” said another.

Media analysts may also point to the number of talent shows currently gracing British channels as a further factor in the X Factor’s decline.

Image courtesy of the X Factor


About The Author

London-based broadcast and online journalist, with a penchant for sports.

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