BBC's 'Strictly Come Dancing' Season Debut Beats 'X Factor' U.K. in Ratings

Simon Cowell X-Factor Horizontal - H 2014
AP Images

Simon Cowell X-Factor Horizontal - H 2014

The ITV show with Simon Cowell had to go head-to-head with the celebrity dance competition

LONDON – BBC celebrity ballroom dancing show Strictly Come Dancing started off its 12th season by beating Simon Cowell's The X Factor on ITV in average viewership Sunday night.

Strictly, the format known as Dancing With the Stars in the U.S., attracted an average audience of 8.4 million, the same figure as for the 2013 season premiere, which was the highest launch episode in at least four years.

Singing talent show X Factor drew an average audience of 7.8 million in the rare head-to-head showdown, which had led to Cowell criticizing the BBC's scheduling decision.

In terms of peak ratings, Strictly had a five-minute peak of 9.4 million viewers, the same as for its 2013 season debut and ahead of X Factor.

X Factor has been hoping to build ratings momentum with Cowell back as one of the judges for the first time in years. Strictly has beaten X Factor in the ratings in the past two seasons. The two big shows typically don't go head-to-head, as Strictly usually starts earlier, with only some overlap.

The other X Factor judges this year are Louis Walsh, former Spice Girl Mel B and Cheryl Fernandez-Versini, formerly Cole.

Twitter: @georgszalai