'X Factor' U.K. Draws Lowest Season Finale Ratings Since 2006


The ITV1 music competition has seen its season-average audience in Britain decline for two consecutive seasons since creator Simon Cowell left his on-air role.

LONDON -- The U.K. season finale of The X Factor drew an average audience of 10.9 million, or 11.1 million when including the audience for a re-airing with a one-hour delay, down from the 13.1 million for the final episode of last season and 17.2 million for the 2010 season finale.

STORY: Nicole Scherzinger's Unexpected, Potty-Mouthed Resurrection on 'X Factor' U.K. (Opinion)

It was the lowest-rated season finale of X Factor in the U.K. since 2006, when it drew 10.4 million, or 10.8 million when including delayed viewership. Still, it scored the biggest U.K. TV audience since the Closing Ceremony of the London 2012 Summer Olympics in August.

The show ended its ninth season Sunday with James Arthur being crowned the winner.

 A peak audience of 12.5 million, or 12.8 million when including the hour-delayed airing, saw the show, exceeding the highs for all other Sunday night shows in Britain.

STORY: U.K. Media Regulator Won't Investigate 'X Factor' Over Allegations of 'Fix'

Commercial broadcaster ITV1 has seen the Simon Cowell-created music competition remain one of the highest-rated entertainment shows on British TV, but it has been drawing weaker ratings for the second year in a row. Cowell had an on-air role through the 2010 season. BBC's dance competition Strictly Come Dancing and ITV1's own I'm a Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here! and Downton Abbey have beaten it this season, at least in some instances. 

The U.K. audience average for The X Factor generally trended higher from the 7.4 million in the first season until a high of 14.1 million in season seven. But the average fell to 12.4 million last season, and this year's average fell to only 9 million. That came in between the season four average of 8.6 million and season five's 10.5 million.

The ninth season, featuring judges Gary Barlow, Nicole Scherzinger, Tulisa Contostavlos and Louis Walsh, had debuted with 8.1 million average viewers, down 2.7 million from the previous season and down from the 2010 season debut. That made it the lowest-rated season launch episode since season three.

Observers have predicted some format changes and a possible updated lineup of judges for next year's 10th season of X Factor, which has been confirmed. Some wonder if Cowell could return to the show, having made a guest appearance this season. A spokeswoman for the show declined comment on possible changes, which observers expect will be discussed in the coming months.

Email: Georg.Szalai@thr.com

Twitter: @georgszalai