The X Factor returned to Fox’s schedule last night, with a couple of new judges on the panel and less behind-the-scenes bitchiness from contestants. Last year’s Season 2 opener spent a lot of time introducing the judges and giving fans different insights into how stuff actually goes down before contestants try out on that big stage. I have no idea what happened with last night’s Season 3 premiere, but there was nothing remotely exciting about the format, and it showed in the ratings.
Last night’s Season 3 opener pulled in a 2.1 rating on Fox, as well as 7 million total viewers, which means it was beaten by CBS’ Big Brother in the timeslot. According to Deadline, that’s 22% less than the viewership that tuned in for last year’s big season opener. Sure, the program is missing L.A. Reid and Britney Spears, but that shouldn’t explain the full 22% loss in the ratings, especially since the ratings didn’t spike after Spears became a part of the show.
Ratings may have been down last night due to The X Factor starting earlier than a lot of other fall programs. Last year, there was a lot of hype and marketing surrounding Demi Lovato and Britney Spears’ introduction on the series and advertising was everywhere. This year, I didn’t see much of that from Fox. Maybe some viewers just aren’t aware that the program is back, even though it started in mid-September last season.
A second, and I think more compelling, reason is that The X Factor, unlike most singing competition shows, is actually better during the actual competition phase. The early introductory rounds on The X Factor have always come across as contrived, since we only get to see the best of the best and the worst of the worst. Since Idol’s been around forever, fans have gotten pretty savvy about what they can expect when a contestant first walks on the stage. There are some surprises, of course, but compared to The Voice’s spinning chair format, the early rounds are a yawnfest. Where The X Factor is the judges houses rounds and the live shows, where the judges/mentors are on the hook for the performance, as well as the performers. Costumes, lighting and song choice are all under the tutelage of one of the judges on the panel, and it’s always interesting to see whether or not the mentor “gets” his or her contestant.
The market is saturated with singing programs, when you factor in Idol, The Voice, The X Factor, The Sing-Off, and to an extent, even America’s Got Talent. The third possibility is that people are already tired of The X Factor, and even if new judges Paulina Rubino and Kelly Rowland manage to be assets to the series, I’m not sure if they will be able to help the ratings a whole lot.
One episode with neutral ratings isn’t enough for me to declare this show is sinking, but if you are a fan of the competition series, tonight’s episode would be a good time to tune in. Are you watching Fox’s The X Factor? The series airs Wednesday and Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET.