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After premiering to ratings far lower than some expected, The X Factor's numbers continued to dip steadily over the course of its three-season run and no amount of drama, mentor shuffling or format shifting could get those numbers up. So it's not entirely surprising that the singing competition has been axed by Fox. Simon Cowell will return to the U.K. series.
EW dropped the news, stating that both Fox entertainment chairman Kevin Reilly and FreemantleMedia North America's Trish Kinane issued statements about the cancellation that indicated that the reason behind the decision was linked to Cowell's decision to return to the U.K. series. There was apparently talk of Fox renewing the series for Season 4 and airing fewer hours a week, similarly to Dancing with the Stars' approach, but it seems they've opted to call it quits on the singing competition.
The X Factor's had a big run of success in the U.K. but it failed to follow the same pattern of success that American Idol did. Low ratings wasn't its only issue either. From the beginning, The X Factor struggled with production challenges, the first of which involved the ousting of UK X Factor judge Cheryl Cole, who was replaced by Nicole Scherzinger before the series even premiered in 2011. Scherzinger was originally set to host but joined Paula Abdul, Simon Cowell and L.A. Reid as a judge on the series and Steve Jones hosted Season 1 solo.
There was backlash about Jones' hosting and more backlash later over the judges when the adorable Rachel Crow was eliminated following a deadlock at the judges table. After Season 1, Steve Jones was replaced by Mario Lopez and Khloe Kardashian, and Paula and Nicole were replaced by Demi Lovato and Britney Spears. Britney and Khloe left after Season 2, as did L.A. Reid. Lopez hosted solo and Kelly Rowland and Paulina Rubio were brought in to join Demi and Simon at the judges table. By that point, The X Factor added in the promising four-chair challenge as part of its process of narrowing down the selection, but even that wasn't enough to raise the ratings. Season 3 debuted to 6.45 ratings in September and wrapped up in December to an audience of 6.22 million. There were some episodes that broke 7 million viewers, while others dropped to less than 4 million, so consistency was obviously an issue, and I can't imagine Simon Cowell or Fox thought there was much hope of bringing those numbers up next season.
My two biggest issues with this series were that it clogged up the Fall TV schedule and I'm getting tired of singing competitions. There were too many other things I wanted to watch during the Fall season, with so many new shows premiering. 2-3 hours of singing competition a week was interfering with that. It's hard to get fully invested in a competition if you're missing episodes, so maybe fewer hours per week would've helped. Or not. The second factor for me is that, after a decade of Idol, I've grown exhausted with singing competitions in general. There are so many of them, they take up a lot of time, and the dwindling success rate of its contestants post-series doesn't exactly help either. Not everyone's going to go on to be Jennifer Hudson or Kelly Clarkson, but I have a much easier time remembering the names of contestants from the first five or six seasons of Idol than I do the contestants on The X Factor, The Voice or even recent Idol series. With so many shows on the air, we may have reached our level of saturation. Or maybe that's just me. Millions of people do still watch them. But it seems there will be one less big singing competition to anticipate this fall... assuming Fox doesn't replace The X Factor with some other singing competition.