'X Factor's' Simon Cowell 'Happy that We Won the Night,' Says Fox Reality Chief

Mike Darnell tells THR he is "relieved" the new reality competition series debuted to solid ratings on "an extraordinarily competitive night."
"The X Factor"

Reality chief Mike Darnell pronounced himself “relieved” with X Factor's modest ratings for its heavily hyped two-hour premiere on Wednesday night.

“Right now, I’m relieved,” Darnell told The Hollywood Reporter. “The expectations were ridiculous and we knew that.”

Indeed, Cowell himself has said that if the show does not pull in 20 million viewers – over the course of its run – it will be a “disappointment.”

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X Factor pulled in 12.5 million viewers for its two-hour premiere with a 4.4 rating in the 18-49 demographic. It was a 52 percent increase compared to the network’s performance on the night last season. But it fell short of the 5.1 demo rating that NBC’s The Voice – a surprise hit for the network – drew for its premiere last spring. (X Factor did best The Voice premiere by about half a million total viewers.) X Factor was also bested last night by ABC’s hour-long premiere of Modern Family, which pulled in a 6 rating and 14.3 million viewers. From 8-10 p.m., ABC actually bested Fox in the demo by 7 percent.

“Right now, we won an extraordinarily competitive night with Modern Family and an endless stream of shows,” says Darnell, adding that he expects X Factor to drop in its second episode since premieres usually benefit from a curiosity lift.

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But Darnell noted that he’s hopeful that as the show progresses and the competition for X Factor’s $5 million recording contract heats up, its ratings will rise.

“Idol generally goes down on the second night. So my expectations will be that [X Factor] will go down,” he said, adding that he hopes it will remain in the range of a 4 demo rating.

Asked how Cowell reacted to the ratings, Darnell said, “I haven’t talked to him yet. He was up all night.”

But he added, “I think he’ll be happy that we won the night. And he’ll be assuming that it will grow.”

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