X Factor beats Survivor but is beaten by Modern Family, had less than half of Idol’s ratings

The years of hype didn’t really pay off for Fox’s The X Factor, which had significantly fewer viewers than American Idol did when it returned last January with new judges Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez. They generated far more interest than Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul did, which is perhaps not a huge surprise.

While that’s not a direct comparison, since they aired at different times of the year, it was a huge difference: Idol had 26.2 million viewers when it debuted; The X Factor had less than half of that: 12.14 million viewers. Worse for Simon Cowell, while his show won its first hour, Modern Family easily beat it in the second in overall viewers and viewers 18 to 49.

The X Factor did beat Survivor South Pacific in both total viewers and those 18 to 49, and CBS’ ratings press release, which usually notes how its show won its timeslot, instead said simply that it “was second in households (6.3/10), viewers (10.36m), adults 25-54 (4.2/11) and adults 18-49 (3.1/09).” However, TV By the Numbers notes that it “held up” with ratings that were just slightly lower than last week’s, so Survivor wasn’t really injured by Simon Cowell.

What does this mean for Simon Cowell? Yesterday, Ad Age said that The X Factor “needs to attract at least 26.2 million viewers tonight. Anything less than that number — which is what the premiere episode of the Cowell-free 10th season of American Idol drew in January — will surely be a huge disappointment for him.”

On The Today Show yesterday, Simon said, “There are so many people, you know, dying for you to fail,” and added, “You will see the most ginormous fireworks displays in L.A. if this show bombs.”

And by Simon’s standards, it did bomb. In August, Simon said that it would be “a disappointment” to have fewer than 20 million viewers.

about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.