Does Simon Cowell still have the X Factor?

Cowell is not used to being second best, but this year’s Rugby World Cup as well as competition from Strictly means the heat is on, says Mark Jefferies

Simon Cowell used to love to say The X Factor was the “biggest show on Saturday night TV”.

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What a difference a few years makes.

It won’t even be on for at least three Saturday nights this autumn, thanks to the Rugby World Cup. And in any case, it has been getting beaten by Strictly in recent years.

In a way, ITV is taking The X Factor out of the firing line and will experiment with big Sunday night live shows in October.

And while Cowell loves to shake up the format and the judging panel, this year does feel like there is particular pressure to try to make the show fresh after a decade.

The X Factor is costly to make – something like £35m per series – and if the ratings drop, in future years it could struggle to pull in the advertising ITV need to make a decent profit.

What Cowell is attempting to do is to make so much of a change that people will at least watch the first show, to see what the new faces are like. Then if he can keep them on board, he might have a chance against Strictly.

He’s gone for new hosts in Olly Murs and Caroline Flack, which could attract some new viewers.

And whilst he will keep Cheryl Cole on the panel, it is looking like there will be two new members of the judging line up, which also is a reason to tune in.

But the other problem he has is he can’t reinvent the wheel in TV terms. 

The auditions can be shot in different ways but they will always be singing auditions and we have seen a lot of them now. They need to be even more shocking/amazing/awful to make an impact on the viewer.

The scheduling around the rugby also worries me. It will mean potentially chopping and changing time slots on a weekly basis, which never helps a show, especially when the BBC will give Strictly primetime billing as it does not have the rugby to worry about.

Strictly changes each year because the celebrity contestants are different; their personalities seem to keep it fresh.
Cowell is undoubtedly a clever man and has found ways to excite and attract viewers many times before, but aside from when the show flopped in America, 2015 may be his toughest challenge to date.

Later this year we will find out if the man himself still has the X Factor when it comes to making TV.

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Mark Jefferies is Showbiz Editor at the Daily Mirror