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Simon Cowell's 'The X Factor' Premieres Lower Than 'American Idol'

UPDATED: 12.5 million tune in for "X Factor," which bowed to an 8.7 household rating, down nearly 50 percent compared to the tenth season premiere of "American Idol."

The X Factor
Ray Mickshaw/FOX

The premiere of Simon Cowell’s highly hyped The X Factor did not stack up to American Idol, the show Cowell famously exited in order to mount X Factor.

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X Factor averaged an 8.7 household rating (with a 4.4 rating in the advertiser-coveted 18-49 demographic), while the tenth season premiere of Idol pulled in a 16.4 rating in households.

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Fox won the night in demo, but not in total viewers. According to time-zone adjusted ratings for Fox, 12.5 million tuned in to watch X Factor, while 14.1 million tuned into CBS' Criminal Minds and 12.6 million for CSI, which was Ted Danson's debut, according to preliminary numbers.

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ABC came close in the demo, scoring a 4.1 with 14.4 million viewers tuning in to Modern Family, which beat X Factor in head-to-head competition at 9 p.m., drawing a 9.8 household rating. And CBS' Criminal Minds also inched past it; pulling in an 8.9 compared to X Factor's 8.6 from 9-10 p.m. Minds, however scored a 3.5 in the demo.

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It’s a bit of a quiet start for a show with the richest prize on television – a $5 million recording contract – and one that Fox spent $250 million on just to wrestle the U.S. rights away from NBC.

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Cowell himself told The Hollywood Reporter that anything less than 20 million viewers would be a “disappointment.”

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But competition shows typically build as the season wears on and viewers become invested in the contestants. And few (except perhaps the extremely confident Cowell) expected the two-hour premiere to rival ratings for the established American Idol. The tenth season opener of Idol, with Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler as judges, drew 26.2 million viewers and a 9.7 rating in the 18-49 demo. By comparison, 9.7 million viewers tuned in for the 2002 series premiere of American Idol.

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The tenth season opener of Idol was down 13 percent – the show’s biggest premiere-to-premiere drop ever – compared to the ninth season opener, Cowell’s last year on the show.

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The ninth season premiere of Idol – which started out big and trended down with a disjointed season with a chemistry-less judges panel featuring Cowell, Randy Jackson, Ellen DeGeneres and Kara DioGuardi – pulled in 30 million viewers and an 11.8 rating in the 18-49 demographic.

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