X Factor’s opening night audience was disappointing – but next weekend will tell the real story

Viewing figures in the 6 and 7 millions are not what ITV hoped for from its revamped show - but it's when Strictly enters the picture that Cowell and co will know if they're really in trouble, says Mark Jefferies

For many people, Sunday’s viewing figures were the final straw. The X Factor has, well, lost its X factor.

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The ratings were unquestionably low, both the 6.5 million on Sunday and the 7.6m the previous night.

This was a new judging panel, with Rita Ora poached from BBC1’s The Voice, and Nick ‘Grimmy’ Grimshaw expected to bring over millions of his Radio 1 listeners.

Strictly’s rival judge Craig Revel Horwood might say it is “a disaster” – and isn’t it?

As you’d expect, the X Factor Press Office tried to downplay the figures, talking of school holidays and possible improvements in coming weeks.

But in truth ITV boss Peter Fincham will not be panicking just yet.

Of course he will not be delighted with the numbers, but he is an experienced TV man who takes his time with things and will look at a bigger picture.

Next week ITV will get the consolidated viewing figures, telling them how many people watched X Factor on catch up TV and how big an audience they have really got this year.

Given the large amount of adverts to skim through, more people watch from Sky+ and other recorders these days, and X Factor could still reach a figure of around 10 million if it is lucky. 

The problem is though, X Factor is expensive to make and relies on selling advertising in those breaks that more and more people are fast forwarding through. The less people that watch the show live each series, the less advertisers will pay.

Simon Cowell will be a little red-faced too, having again mentioned wanting to beat Strictly Come Dancing when X Factor launched to the press.

“I’m going to put my money on us,” he said. 

Well I’ll have whatever stake you like on that bet if you’re reading this Simon! 

Strictly doesn’t launch until the coming Saturday. But by the end of next weekend, ITV bosses will know whether their initially disappointing figures are a short term headache or a longer term pain they will struggle to fix. And whether Strictly will be dancing off with this year’s Saturday night crown…

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Mark Jefferies is Showbiz Editor at the Daily Mirror