'X Factor' Ratings Up as Hit Show Returns to U.K.'s ITV for 10th Season

Sharon Osbourne

"I just can't be fake. It's discrimination, and it was badly handled."

A peak audience of 10.3 million tuned in for the Saturday season launch episode of the talent show.

LONDON – Simon Cowell's The X Factor kicked off its 10th season here with improved ratings this weekend.

A peak audience of 10.3 million tuned in for the Saturday season launch episode of the talent show on ITV 1. That meant 400,000 viewers more than the ninth season's launch episode had drawn.

The show in the 8-9:20 p.m. slot, which featured the return of Sharon Osbourne as a judge, drew an average audience of 9.2 million. That compared with about 8.7 million last season and around 12 million in 2011.

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All figures include live viewing and viewing for a re-airing of the show with an hour's delay. The average live audience amounted to 8.8 million people.

The producers and judges of X Factor have talked up format tweaks this season designed to boost ratings after the last two seasons have seen audience declines following Cowell's departure as a judge. For example, auditions now consist of an intimate performance in front of the judges -- Osbourne, Gary Barlow, Nicole Scherzinger and Louis Walsh -- and one in front of a crowd at a big venue.

Cowell on Thursday made a surprise appearance at the season's press launch event here, which included edited portions from the season premiere. "It was absolutely incredible," he said, explaining that it was the first time he had seen the edited version. "This feels fresh and fantastic." He added that he feels "like a proud daddy." 

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Starting next weekend, X Factor will once again compete with the BBC's Saturday night entertainment hit Strictly Come Dancing, the British version of Dancing With the Stars.

The two shows are expected to only have a short overlap, but ratings will once again be closely watched by the industry. Last year, Strictly beat X Factor on many weekends.

ITV launched its own celebrity dance show Saturday, Stepping Out. But it drew only an average audience of 3.7 million.