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Posted at 06:00 PM ET, 10/20/2011

‘X Factor’ heads into live shows with one more contestant, far fewer viewers


Paula Abdul, L.A. Reid, Nicole Sherzinger and Simon Cowell on “The X Factor.” (Ray Mickshaw)
“X Factor,” Simon Cowell’s new singing competition for Fox, finally heads into its live competition rounds next week, with one more contestant than expected — and far fewer viewers.

Five weeks into the new season, “X Factor” is averaging about 12 million viewers — not the ratings behemoth Cowell anticipated when he told a trade publication before the premiere that he’d consider anything under 20 million viewers a “disappointment.”

(More recently, Cowell has said he only meant he thought the show would eventually attain 20 million viewers.)

“The fact of the matter is that we have a very successful show and we have an average of over 12 million viewers, so it’s a very successful show,” judge Antonio “LA” Reid — the former Island Def Jam Music Group chairman, told a gaggle of reporters on a phone conference call Thursday.

“Whether we hit 20 [million] or not… that’s a statement that Simon put out there and I think it was an aspirational statement. I hope that we can, at some point, get there.”

Fox feels the same way too.

The network is now compensating advertisers for the sluggish ratings with extra commercial time on the show, the Wall Street Journal reports. WSJ and Fox both are owned by News Corporation. It’s not unusual for networks to compensate advertisers for ratings that aren’t coming in up to expectations – it’s just unusual for a network to compensate advertisers for ratings on a show starring Simon Cowell.

Despite Cowell having bought into his own press and, so, set up his own show to look like it’s faltering ratings-wise, “X Factor” is not a flop. Thanks in large measure to the singing competition, Fox has gained more than a million viewers compared to the early days of last season, and is the only broadcast network showing improvement in season-to-season comparisons – both overall and among the 18-49 year old viewers the network target.

But, it’s a pricey show – remember those reports about Fox having to beat NBC’s $250 million offer to Cowell to go produce and star in “X Factor” for them? (When Cowell turned NBC down, it went and bought the format for another singing competition series, “The Voice,” and slapped it on the air before Cowell’s show was scheduled to debut. The rushed “The Voice” averaged nearly 14 million viewers last spring.

In addition to having been over promised, by Cowell to consumers and by Fox to advertisers, “X Factor’s” ratings have been hurt by postseason baseball games that that jostled it around the schedule.

Last week, a rain delay in an afternoon postseason baseball game bumped “X Factor” out of it’s scheduled timeslot Wednesday at the last minute. Wednesday’s show got bumped to Thursday and Thursday’s show to Sunday -- all with little time to let viewers know. Sunday’s episode attracted an average audience of just under 9 million people.

This week, instead of airing Wednesday and Thursday, as it has so far this season, only one episode was scheduled on Tuesday, to accommodate the World Series.

in its regular timeslots, one episode only aired on Tuesday. With that episode, the program climbed back up to just over 10 million viewers.

Baseball will continue to mess with “X Factor’s” schedule next week when, again, only one episode will air Tuesday night, to make way for World Series coverage.

In this week’s episode, the 32 semi-finalists were whittled down to the 16 finalists in four categories — Boys, Girls, Groups and “Over 30’s”, who will compete in the live performance shows starting next week.

In case you missed it, Tuesday’s “X Factor: Judgment Day” involved all the X-testants loitering nervously around the various estates that we’d been told are the “homes” of the show’s four judges: Simon Cowell n Somewhere, France, at Chateau Les Girls; LA Reid at Boys Town in East X-ton, Long Island; Paula Abdul at Mission Santa Paula with The Groups; and Nicole Scherzinger with The Over 30-Year-Olds in Charlie Harper’s hood.

The 32 X-testants were seen pacing in the gardens, huddling in the kitchens. We got video clips of them telling the camera how they would return to their dead-end jobs and dead-end lives if they got cut. Imagine a TV show in which The 99 Percent waited to have their lives decided by The 1 Percent — it was like that. We wished one of them had shouted “Occupy Paula’s House!” and they’d all pulled out tents and refuse to be sent home. Alas, it did not happen, and half of them got whacked.

Only, with minutes to go, Simon was seen sitting at a candle-lit dinner table, at his place in Somewhere, France, muttering to some chick sitting nearby, “I think I made a mistake. An hour ago I felt fine — now I can feel it in my gut.” Suddenly — whoosh! Simon was being limousined through a palm-tree lined neighborhood, somewhere in Florida, and knocking on the door of a modest house, in search of – whacked X-testant Melanie Amaro!

“I want to personally apologize to you and your family for the mistake I made — I’m going to ask you to come back on the competition,” Simon told her while the cameras rolled.

Unfortunately, Melanie did not stall him and call her attorney to negotiate on her behalf. Instead, she meekly accepted his apology and there were hugs all around. And with that, the show that purports to be a competition among the four judges, who are now “mentoring” the finalists in their respective group, to make sure their “team” wins, now has one team – Cowell’s – with one extra player.

On Thursday’s phone call, LA Reid told The Reporters Who Cover Television he still has absolutely no idea how that’s going to be handled, but he mentioned the possibility two X-testants might be cut in Tuesday’s first live episode – like was sometimes done on “American Idol.”

“ I’m not exactly sure. This is for me the first time at bat…I’m learning it as I go,” Reid admitted.

By  |  06:00 PM ET, 10/20/2011

 
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