The way we watch TV has changed – so should “meaningless” ratings, says Simon Cowell

It's high time we had a more modern and accurate way to determine viewing figures, agrees Mark Jefferies

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For years they have been a source of stories for me, not to mention a source of huge revenue for Simon Cowell as advertisers queued up to buy slots in the ad breaks.

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But now the X Factor boss thinks overnight ratings – a snapshot of how many viewers watched what the previous day – should be abolished or replaced.

Cowell is not the first to realise that the way people watch has changed, with catch up TV, +1 channels and shows available on-demand and online.

Applying it to X Factor, he says: “If you look at everything at the moment you are seeing a pattern here. Strictly is in the sevens, we are in the sevens, our peak was higher than theirs. There is no question of a doubt, this applies to all shows at the moment, people are definitely changing their viewing habits.

“We are adding two or three million on the week’s figures which is taking us up to nine-and-a-half which in this day and age is a miracle.”

Speaking at the Judges’ Houses stage of X Factor, Cowell went on to brand overnight ratings as “meaningless” and said he felt the way they are calculated, using the results of 5,000 homes from company BARB, is now out of date.

I think Cowell has a point. I mean, we are basing the viewing habits of millions and millions of people on a sample of just 5,000. There must be a better way we can get an instant snapshot in this day and age?

Wouldn’t it be great to have a better idea of who watched what?

And if it is possible to get more detailed results it will help advertisers and also help shows sell ad slots in the future.

Cowell says he has changed the way he looks at ratings, and now pays more attention to the results that come seven days later – the “consolidated” numbers, which include people watching on catch-up TV and from set-top box recordings after the day of broadcast.

Cowell said: “I can make a very quick calculation now, when they come in on Sunday morning, in my mind we have done ten million, because I know what the catch up number is going to be.

“Ten years on to be getting around ten million, it is a miracle.

So whilst it may not quite get the numbers it used to, the demise of X Factor may be getting exaggerated thanks to overnights.

With all the brilliant ways to watch and catch up with TV shows and series these days on all manner of devices, lets hope the way we find out ratings can be brought up to date soon too.

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Mark Jefferies is Showbiz Editor at the Daily Mirror. X Factor continues all weekend on ITV