While a legal battle between American Idol and X Factor creators heats up, there are cooler jets on the ratings front. X Factor premiered last night to lower-than-expected ratings, meaning American Idol is still king of the talent competition shows, for now.

Because Simon Cowell has branded himself pretty well, because he brought the well-liked Paula Abdul on board for his new program, and because Fox had enough money invested to create an extremely well-produced show, Cowell was confident in his program’s prowess prior to its airing. In an interview with THR, Cowell stated anything less than 20 million viewers would be a “disappointment.”

Last night’s X Factor brought in an 8.7 rating, which equals 12.14 viewers. It was beat out by the season premiere of Criminal Minds, which brought in 12.3 million viewers. Though that seems pretty good, it is not even near the interest American Idol brings in. Season 10’s premiere of Idol opened with 26.2 million viewers…and ratings were down.

Is this a problem? Not necessarily. The American Idol series premiere back in 2002 only earned a 9.7 rating. This is only a little higher than the numbers X Factor pulled in . A competition series needs time to establish itself and earn positive word-of-mouth ratings before it earns the kind of numbers Idol still gets.

Was Fox overconfident when they bid 250 million to beat NBC out for the show? Possibly. However, if you watched X Factor last night, hopefully you noticed how polished the set-up of the show is. It picks up on things that have worked in other competition shows and improves on others. I’m not sure it will ever beat out Idol in terms of cultural relevance, but by God, you can tell it is trying. My biggest issue thus far is host Steve Jones. X Factor just needs to find its Ryan Seacrest for everything to fall into place.

Check out Cinema Blend's X Factor review for more on where we think the show is headed.

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