Finally, a big ratings bump for The X Factor. Fox series’ first season finale last night (3.8/11 in adults 18-49, 12.6 million total viewers) was up 31% from last week’s result show in 18-49 but did not hit a series high. It was a solid finish for the heavily promoted singing competition from Simon Cowell whose protege, Melanie Amaro, won the $5 million prize. But The X Factor never came close to the ratings heights of the show that made Cowell a star in the U.S., American Idol. The first season finale of the long-running Fox reality series, which aired in the summer of 2002 with very little promotion, drew a 10.7 rating among adults 18-49 and 22.8 million viewers. However, The X Factor season ender edged the first season finale of NBC’s breakout The Voice, which also aired over the summer and averaged a 3.7 demo rating and 11 million viewers in June. Comparisons to both finales are relatively apples-to-apples because, despite airing in season, The X Factor ran during a pre-holiday week with depressed viewership levels.
It was a rocky first season of The X Factor, which didn’t lack the controversies Cowell is so well known about in the U.K. From the abrupt sacking of judge Cheryl Cole a week into filming and her replacement with Nicole Scherzinger to the accusations of juicing performances and using lip-singing to the controversial dismissal of frontrunner Rachel Crow, The X Factor made a lot of headlines in its maiden voyage though they didn’t translate into higher ratings. Despite falling short of the 20 million viewer level Cowell infamously predicted before the launch of the show (X Factor averaged a 4.2/12 and 12.4 million in Season 1 with Live+7 data), the show helped Fox score a fall demo ratings win with consistent performances on 2 nights. Still, it was off the 6.0 18-49 rating guaranteed to ad buyers at the upfronts, leading to reports about advertiser reimbursements, though News Corp. president and COO Chase Carey recently said that Fox is not in a make-good situation on the show. And the need to keep X Factor on every week took a toll on other Fox series, most notably freshman New Girl. After a white-hot 3-week run, the rookie comedy was pre-empted for 2 weeks for baseball coverage and 2 weeks to accommodate X Factor. New Girl returned from the 4-week hiatus down 19% in the ratings and never recovered.
While more of the size of Cowell’s other U.S. series, America’s Got Talent, that his previous starring vehicle American Idol, The X Factor has been a solid performer for Fox and has already been renewed for a second season. There will likely be major changes for Season 2. “We change these shows all the time,” Cowell recently told TV Guide. The main replacement targets have been Scherzinger, who got mired in the Rachel Crow controversy, and host Steve Jones who never broke out the way Ryan Seacrest did on the first season of Idol. However, no decisions have been made, with the process likely to begin early next year. With a 2-hour X Factor and virtually no competition last night, Fox won in both 18-49 and total viewers. The only 2 other originals were NBC’s game show Who’s Still Standing (1.5/5), down 12% from Wednesday and a Prime Suspect burnoff (1.0/3), up a tenth from its most recent episode.
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