Simon Cowell (Dan Steinberg/DAN STEINBERG/INVISION/AP)

Cowell’s UK-version “X” just wrapped its ninth season Sunday with its smallest crowd since 2006, according to early stats. An average of about 11 million viewers watched the two-hour season finale — a plunge of 6 million compared to the 2010 finale, when Cowell was still a judge and One Direction wound up winning, reported the Guardian.

Reporters Who Cover UK Television — RWCUKT — note that the show’s 10th edition will be its last under its current contract with ITV network, and that it will have to undergo a major overhaul if that last edition isn’t also to be its last hurrah.

Among the forecast changes: Cowell’s return as a judge.

“The X Factor’ may not be dead but either the end is nigh or Cowell’s return is,” wrote The Times of London.

That would make things very tough for Cowell, who is a judge on the U.S. version — which also runs in the fourth quarter and is amid its second season now.

The American version’s performance night is averaging about 10 million viewers, but U.S. network Fox prefers to focus on other metrics. When it announced the show’s third-season pickup back in October, for instance, Fox noted that “X” is a Top 5 entertainment program among teens this season, and that it had already broken social TV records with the most fan engagement of any series on television — three times the social activity of its genre competitors.

At that point, each episode was achieving more Twitter trending topics than the competition. The second-season premiere shattered the record for a launch, garnering 1.4 million social comments, according to TV-analytics firm Bluefin Labs.

In the United States, “X” airs Wednesdays and Thursdays; in the UK; it aired Saturdays and Sundays. So in theory, Cowell could fly back and forth, but that would pretty much nuke the illusion he’s actually “mentoring” “X”-testants in either hemisphere.

Fox already announced that it had picked up “X” for another season after the current one. It’s unclear whether Cowell’s deal with Fox precludes him from appearing on the British version.

The Times reported that on Sunday’s UK finale, “a miserable bespectacled giant” by the name of James Arthur was the winner. Which, the publication said, was the better option than his opponent, Christopher Maloney, who was described as “the schmaltzy. . .balladeer with the charisma and looks of a window cleaner. ”

Had Maloney won, the paper reported, “this review would be appearing in the obituaries section.”