THE X FACTOR (FOX)
Scheduling history: Because this was a particularly important series in primetime TV, I'm waiving the four-year rule for War of 18-49 posts and chronicling The X Factor's three-season run. All three The X Factor seasons took place on Wednesday and Thursday. It was almost always two hours on Wednesday and generally one on Thursday, though Wednesday was shortened to 90 minutes during season one to launch new sitcom I Hate My Teenage Daughter.
See (who saw) how it all began: Could Fox have another music competition with American Idol-esque ratings in the fall? That was the expectation for the huge international format The X Factor, which also featured the American return of super-famous Idol judge Simon Cowell. But out of the gate, The X Factor was only about a "half-Idol," premiering on 9/21/11 to 12.49 million viewers and a 4.4 demo rating.
The best of times: The good news was that The X Factor held up very well from there; it dropped only a tenth in its first Thursday airing the next night, and then to a 4.1 the next Wednesday. It even returned to 4.4 territory for a Tuesday edition on 10/25/11. Even through the end of season one, it was getting low-to-mid 3's, at least on the main night. It was no Idol, but season one was legitimately a big hit.
The worst of times: But it was all downhill from there for The X Factor. Expectations were again high for the season two premiere as Britney Spears came on board as a judge, but season two began at just a 3.4, or over 20% behind the series premiere. Again, it initially held up very well post-premiere (even beating the premiere number several times), but dipped into the 2's in the second half of the season. It really went off the rails in season three; the 2.2 premiere was down more than a third, and then the show soon vanished for three weeks due to baseball. (In previous seasons, Fox had aired it on Tuesdays during October to keep the lights on.) It came back at a paltry 1.5 and actually got as low as 1.2 on the main night (11/27/13) and 1.0 on the results night (11/28/13). The finale got back to 1.7, but that was still 45% behind the season two finale.
Then vs. now: It may not be an exaggeration to say that The X Factor was the beginning of the end for Fox's half-decade reign of terror in primetime. At first, it brought the network to historic levels of strength in their usually troubled fall, but there was a price. The subsequent spring was the first time American Idol took a drop well above the league average. That would've been acceptable if both X and Idol had held from there, but the damage only continued on both fronts. Now The X Factor is leaving the air a below-average show, and American Idol can barely even be called a "hit" anymore, and forget about a triple-league-average "Death Star." It seems X put a dent in that seasonal "event" feel that made Idol so special. While I think cancelling the show is the right decision if only to try to shore up Idol, the show's weakness was a bit exaggerated by the late-season episodes (which are always weaker on these shows). Fox may struggle to match The X Factor's 94 A18-49+ with the stuff that replaces it. But the way this show was trending, it's not like they were gonna match the 94 with The X Factor itself, either.
Adults 18-49 info by season:
|1||Fall 2011||Wednesday 8:00||3.81||3.2||4.4||detail|
|2||Fall 2012||Wednesday 8:00||2.92||-23%||2.2||3.6||detail|
|3||Fall 2013||Wednesday 8:00||1.77||-39%||1.2||2.5||detail|
Historical-adjusted ratings by season:
|1||Fall 2011||161||big hit||2.71||135||186||186||140|
For more on The War of 18-49, my look at the history of primetime TV's veteran shows, see the Index.