Is it time for ITV to eliminate The X Factor?

Simon Cowell is 'rethinking' the long-running show for pop-star wannabes. But is it now time for ITV to send The X Factor home?

The X Factor: format will change this year
The X Factor: format will change this year

It could be the final countdown for The X Factor as we know it, according to reports that the ITV talent contest is undergoing a major overhaul this year.

Audience figures have generally been in decline (although last year's finale was up on 2017) and creator Simon Cowell is now "rethinking" the series, which has been a mainstay of ITV’s weekend schedule every autumn since 2004.

There will be two special editions of the show this year, one featuring celebrities and the other starring contestants from previous years. 

It is not yet known what version of The X Factor will return 2020, but Cowell has insisted that he has a four-year plan to turn around the show’s fortunes. Cowell also claimed that ITV offered him a five-year deal for the show.

But is ITV right to keep the faith with The X Factor or is it time to back another horse to take on the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing in the Saturday-night TV ratings race?  

Jenny Biggam

Co-founder, the7stars

Few mainstream media partnerships have more impact than flagship TV franchises and ITV is brilliant at these. But The X Factor's had its day. Ratings have collapsed, but it’s about so much more than numbers.

This star has faded. The X Factor’s try-hard "change my life" hype, built on contestants' emotional obscurity-to-stardom journeys, just doesn’t wash with so many finalists fading into obscurity. Newer and better franchises like Love Island and I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! have taken over because the programmes are great and, critically, watched live by engaged audiences. That's what brands want.

So, sorry Simon. That performance wasn’t up to your previous standard and it’s a no from me.

Matt Tanter

Chief strategy officer, Grey London

They say that predictability is the death of entertainment. Unfortunately, there is nothing more predictable than the journey from freaky auditions to glitzy finale. The X Factor's future lies in its unique past not in just creating music stars, but creating anticipation.

Behavioural scientist Nir Eyal said "Nothing makes us feel more alive than the feeling of trying to predict what is about to happen next. How will the movie end? Will they score the goal?". The only sure way back into the nations heart is to once again create entertainment that keep the nation on the edge of their sofa. Will ITV give it this chance? Lets see. 

Natalie Cummins

UK chief executive, Zenith

The X Factor did well for as long as it did because it was the simplest format: largely young, sexy people singing, and viewers voting for their favourite. Good choice of judges, great live acts and well publicised judge-drama all added to the magic.

But everything has a lifecycle and we are now approaching 15 years of The X Factor, every year. Young audiences watch less TV, yes, but more importantly, the concept is tired. We want to watch young, sexy people faking and falling in love, gaslighting and mugging off. In comparison, singing is a bit one dimensional.

Robbie Ashcroft

Group account director, The Story Lab

It’s the golden age of entertainment, and public demand for new stuff is almost insatiable. It’s understandable that ITV continues to push established IP like The X Factor.

But as one of the nation’s most loved commercial broadcaster, it would be great to see it embrace that status and really back itself to launch a new Saturday night format that fits the Facebook/Amazon/Apple/Netflix/Google world we live in today. It’s well within the broadcaster’s capabilities to pilot a whole new slate of big shiny Saturday night shows that give the nation something new to talk about.


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