'X Factor' U.K. Sunday Audience Rises, Hits Season High


Amid chatter that Simon Cowell's music competition could axe new judge Nicole Scherzinger, a show representative says "noone is even thinking or talking about next year."

LONDON - Simon Cowell's The X Factor U.K. gained viewers and hit a season high with its second Sunday episode of the season as show representatives shot down chatter about possible changes to the music competition amid ratings declines early this season.

The show on ITV1 drew an average of 9.7 million viewers on Sunday, which the broadcaster said was "the highest audience so far" this season, with a peak audience of 11.2 million. Those figures were up from 7.9 million and 8.8 million last Sunday. The show has also aired on Saturdays for the past five weeks.

In those first five weeks of its ninth season, X Factor is running behind its year-ago performance though when it regularly reached more than 10 million viewers. On Sunday, the show was nearly 2 million viewers behind the comparable episode of the 2011 season.

In that context, British tabloid The Sun, part of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., suggested in a report that new judge and Pussycat Dolls star Nicole Scherzinger could be axed and replaced next season. It suggested that former Spice Girls member Mel B, who appeared as a guest judge early this season and earned strong reviews, was a strong contender for the position.

"We have only just started this year's series, which is our focus," a spokesman for X Factor told THR though. "Noone is even thinking or talking about next year and who may or may not be on the panel."

Scherzinger, who was a judge on the show's U.S. version in 2011, replaced Destiny's Child's Kelly Rowland as a judge on the U.K. series this season.

Email: Georg.Szalai@thr.com

Twitter: @georgszalai