The X Factor: Where Does It Go From Here?

Connor Macgregor

So, as 2012 begins to wrap up its concluding weeks, another series of The X Factor has ceased airing. But in case you don’t own a computer or aren’t in touch with the television world as much as I am, it wouldn’t be surprising to note that The X Factor this year is down on ratings. Sunday night’s results show only managed to get 10.94 million viewers, which is a drop of 15% from last year’s final. To add more grim news to this once nationwide phenomenal, the entire series average this year is down 20% from last year’s series. So, it really comes into question as to whether The X Factor as a brand is coming to the end of its natural shelf life.

Compared to previous series, The X Factor this year wasn’t the greatest of editions, and in many ways became more of a lost parody of a once innovative and cutting edge entertainment show which shocked and wowed mega audiences no less than two years ago. Now, the once proclaimed number one show on British Television, finds itself walking out of the spotlight and eventually out of the airwaves itself.  And now, we are seeing websites and newspapers try to ‘figure out’ what the problem is with the show, as if its some dying child with some mysterious alien disease. You see suggestions on how to fix the show by either  journalists who will end up slagging the show off the very next year, or by forum posters online who think they know TV shows better than the people running making them. It’s a sad thing to read these days, but they really must love the show if they are willing to suggest changes (which will likely never be read by anyone worthwhile.).

So what is really wrong with The X Factor anyway? Well over the years, Simon Cowell has done what any good producer does with a format. He makes it bigger. If you could cast your mind back to 2004, The X Factor was nothing compared to what it is now. Back then, it was a more shallow and more niche watched show than it is now. Plus it debuted more as an extension to its predecessor Pop Idol (which by the way, still holds up even today). But as the show gradually continued to move up over the years, so did its ego. It doesn’t take a genius to notice that Simon Cowell believes himself to be some messiah brought down by gods to make our Saturday nights more entertaining, with his ever so flawed product. But as time went on, The X Factor got bigger audiences and the media as well as itself saw it to the British equivalent to The Super Bowl.

Overtime, we saw the show gradually move away to expert music executives as judges, to sassy pop stars whose spotlight was dimming and needed a vehicle to keep themselves current. That is where Dannii Minogue & Cheryl Cole came in, and where Sharon Osbourne (And briefly Louis Walsh) got casted out. The new quartet boosted ratings to a high of 16 million and the show continued its dominance in British TV. But when Minogue, Cole & Cowell all left for various different reasons (Cowell attempted and to an extent failed to make The X Factor a hit in America), the show’s ratings started to take a different direction.

The direction is: down. In came Gary Barlow, Tulisa Contostavlos & Kelly Rowland and a new slate was wiped in a bid to attract new viewers to keep the show current and exciting. But in reality, a new selection of judges really became the first warning signs that the once juggernaut of ITV had suffered its first flesh wound. With the addition of Tulisa, Gary & Kelly, the show began to lose a small portion of fans. This has continued with this year’s series, only now the decrease has been more noticeable. More audiences have deserted the show and it could be many things. It could be the boredom bug kicking in; young teenagers deserting the TV to get a taste of the nightlife and one night stands; angry middle aged mums yelling at their TVs at the frustration of joke acts making it further than genuine talent on the show, or maybe it was the controversy that has always echoed on the show for so many years which has caused viewers to tune away to something else.

And that something else is likely to be in the form of Stricly Come Dancing on BBC One. The show that for many years was always second fiddle to The X Factor, but has now overtaken it in ratings and office talk, as well as taking the title of  The Number One Show on Saturday Night Television. And not forgetting The Voice. The Voice debuted earlier this year as a fresh take on a singing competition and has now become another significant factor contributing to The X Factor’s ultimate decline. It presents itself with a new attitude towards the talent presented on screen as well as the people who guide them throughout the competition. Plus it has spinny chairs, something The X Factor can never top. To put itself simply, The Voice takes itself much more seriously than The X Factor does in terms of talent and finding the next big thing in music. ITV & Simon Cowell are right to be worried about The Voice, as it well and truely could be its replacement.

As I said before, many people online and in newspapers are suggesting reasons to the show’s decline as well as suggestions or ways of how to restore the show’s ratings in some hope to see the show become the once former glory it was not so long ago. But as I say again, it will be from the same people that will in a matter of months, be badmouthing and panning the show all over again when it returns, and then when it ends, suggest even more reasons to restore the show, and then repeat the process until the show withers and dies completely whilst these people think in circles about whatever happened to The X Factor. It really doesn’t help that these “critics” – I say that word rather loosely – treat the show like a cat plays with a ball of string. They are meant to be people who offer opinion which makes logical sense and makes readers think about what they have watched and what the experts say about it. But these days, they tend to just blatantly criticise and moan at anything that isn’t to their high class standards, as well as never offering a significant reason as to why a show is good or bad. To look at The X Factor now, its a show that really has seen its best days behind it and despite all the revamps and reboots that ITV want to give it, they can’t escape the ever present fact that is presented in one word. And that word is: cancellation. The X Factor’s day will come, and whoever is in charge of ITV at that point will have to be the one to cast the fatal blow. There is no point in trying to revamp a show that is already past peak point. Series 10 might not be the last series, but if ITV were smart, they should end the show before it sinks any further. The X Factor’s contract comes up at 2013, and with all this hysteria surrounding the show’s future, it may be time to do what Travis did to Old Yeller. Put it out of its misery.

But to look on the bright side for one moment, The X Factor’s influence on Television has been nothing short of incredible. It redefined Reality Television for the masses as well as created new musical stars for a new generation. You look at One Direction right now, conquering the world, all because of Simon Cowell. Then there is Cher Lloyd and her recent success in America, all because of her start on The X Factor. Olly Murs, JLS and even Jedward have all got their start because of X Factor. Like it or not, it has contributed a wide list of established celebrities and artists who are currently living the dream and influencing future minds to take their career to the next stage. As for the format itself, Its made huge success in other countries after the UK put it on the map. An example would be Australia. The TV Audience down under is much smaller compared to the huge audiences The UK and America get every day. So to you, the audience of 1.9 Million might be tiny compared to the 10 million the British version gets. But 1.9 in Australia is a pretty big deal and points towards huge revenue for Australian TV executives. To sum it up overall, The X Factor is established in 42 countries around the world and has crowned 77 winners since its launch. Regardless of what state its in now, those are impressive stats to say the least and its those stats that make The X Factor the success it was always destined to be.

But like my gran once told me “Nothing lasts forever in this world. Everything that has a beginning, has its end” and that applies to everything in every medium in every culture. The X Factor regardless of how many fans it has, is not immune to that phrase. Eventually it will make its final bow, whenever that date will be. What this series has told us, is that it may come sooner rather than later, and in my opinion, no revamp or reboot will save the show. In fact, it may only make it worse and accelerate its speedy exit ever quicker. Its only natural in Television that something ends. Shows can have a short lifespan or a long lifespan. They can last a year or perhaps fifty, but the thought will never escape them that one day, it will end and they will be cast aside for something new to come along and take its spot. It will be sad to see such a successful program such as The X Factor finally conclude, but as the saying goes

“What goes up, must come down”


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