BBC's 'Strictly Come Dancing' Season Debut Beats ITV's 'X Factor' in Average Ratings

Strictly Come Dancing - P 2012
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The Simon Cowell-created ITV show drew slightly higher peak viewership than the celebrity dancing series, though, in the closely watched U.K. Saturday night ratings showdown.

LONDON – BBC celebrity dancing show Strictly Come Dancing kicked off its 11th season with higher ratings than last year and beat Simon Cowell's The X Factor on ITV in average viewership.

Strictly attracted an average audience of 8.4 million on Saturday night, up from eight million for the 2012 season premiere and the highest launch episode in at least four years.

Singing talent show X Factor, meanwhile, drew an average of eight million, or 8.3 million when including viewers for a repeat that starts an hour after the show, down from the 9.2 million that its 10th season premiere had reached a week earlier.

In terms of peak ratings, the picture was more mixed. Strictly had a five-minute peak of 9.4 million viewers, compared with X Factor's 9.1 million. Including the immediate repeat though, the ITV show came out on top. "The X Factor drew a peak audience of 9.5 million viewers last night, the highest peak audience of the night," ITV said in a statement.

A week earlier, the show had peaked with 10.3 million.

X Factor has been losing viewers in the past couple of seasons without Cowell as one of the judges. It has, for this season, introduced some format tweaks in an attempt to boost audience figures.

The shows typically don't go head-to-head, as Strictly starts earlier, but see some overlap. 

Last year, the season finale of X Factor drew an average audience of 10.9 million, or 11.1 million when including the audience for the re-airing with a one-hour delay, down from the 13.1 million for the final episode of 2011 and 17.2 million for the 2010 season finale. It was the lowest-rated season finale of X Factor in the U.K. since 2006. ITV1 has seen the Cowell-created music competition remain one of the highest-rated entertainment shows on British TV, though.

The Strictly finale last year drew an average of 12.4 million viewers, up from the 12.2 million who had tuned in for the final show of the 2011 edition. And the show also drew stronger average ratings than X Factor in many other weeks.

X Factor has slightly re-jiggered its panel of judges this year. The ninth season featured Take That star Gary Barlow, Nicole Scherzinger, Tulisa Contostavlos and Louis Walsh as judges. This season, Contostavlos was replaced by the returning Sharon Osbourne, who was one of the original X Factor judges in Britain from 2004 through 2007.

Twitter: @georgszalai