Sharon Osbourne is about to make a credit-crunch-busting £2m return to The X Factor... well, according to a report in the People.
Indeed, Simon Cowell is so desperate to make the tenth series of his singing show a success he’s offering her a “£2m X Factor deal making her the highest paid judge in the show’s history.”
Both ITV and Syco remained tight-lipped on the matter, which still appears some way from the done-deal the People describe – but if it is true that the 60-year-old wife of Ozzy is to return… is that really what the talent show needs to give it a ratings boost?
Sharon was a popular fixture for the first four series of The X Factor in the UK, leaving in 2007 before being replaced by Cheryl Cole. However, The X Factor really only began to hit its stride after Sharon said goodbye. Series four (her last) averaged 8.5m viewers. When Cheryl Cole joined Walsh, Minogue and Cowell in 2008 the numbers rocketed to 10.5m – and just kept going up, with a 13m average in 2009 and a 14.1m average in 2010.
Indeed, on paper at least, it seems that the saviour of The X Factor’s ratings is not Osbourne (even with her recent marital "issues" attracting tabloid headlines)… it’s Cole and Cowell. Viewing figures have only started slipping since they left, and it's probably only their return that can undo the rot at X Factor towers. Of course, there may be no "saving" the show at all. Perhaps the format has simply peaked and now people want something new on autumnal Saturday evenings? (Maybe The Voice Kids/ Cooking in Car Parks/ a return of The Flintstones... whatever.)
One thing is for sure, it's unlikely The X Factor (no matter who's on the panel) will be going anywhere for a while. It might not be attracting the frankly hysterical audiences it did in the age of Cher Lloyd and Matt Cardle - but it's still a nice little earner for both Mr Cowell and ITV from August until December every year, and one of the biggest shows on TV.
Despite Cowell's promise to kill shows before people get bored of them, it would be a brave man (and network) that let The X Factor UK go before they were sure they had something to replace it with. After several experiments in that area in recent years, it's clear that Saturday night commercial television is not yet ready to move on...