[October 22, 2012 update: "The X Factor" U.S. has been renewed for a third season, under the condition that the show drastically reduce spending. The skyrocketing spending was the No. 1 reason why the show was on the chopping block to get cancelled. "The X Factor" U.S. is also going to be retooled in Season 3 to correct the show's failures that have been pointed out in this article. Click here for more information.]
"The X Factor" U.S. is headed for cancellation, according to many industry insiders. "The X Factor" executive producer Simon Cowell and his "X Factor" colleagues are no doubt furious or panicking about it, and the cancellation probably won't be officially decided until after the show's live episodes begin in November 2012, but the damage has been done.
There are many reasons for the downward spiral of "The X Factor" U.S., but Fox (the U.S. network for the show) has now made it abundantly clear that "The X Factor" U.S. is no longer a priority for the network because of the way Fox botched the new episode that was supposed to be televised in its entirety on October 17, 2012. (Click here for recap of the episode.) Fox announced that the two-hour episode has been rescheduled to be televised in its entirety on October 23, 2012 at 8 p.m. Eastern/Pacific Time.* (See update at the end of this article.)
Not surprisingly, Fox received many viewer complaints about this sudden programming change, but behind the scenes, perhaps the biggest complainer has been Cowell. After all, he has the most at stake (besides his ego and pride) over the failure of "The X Factor" U.S.
And make no mistake: Fox is now treating "The X Factor" U.S. as a big-time failure, not because it's the lowest-rated show on the network (because it isn't Fox's lowest-rated show) but because it's become a money pit for the network. Major League Baseball (MLB) on Fox makes millions more for Fox than "The X Factor" does, so it should come as no surprise that Fox will give MLB games priority over "The X Factor," even if it means interrupting "X Factor" episodes.
The episode from October 17, 2012, was the crucial episode that revealed the Top 16 contestant acts who will perform in the live episodes that begin on November 1, 2012. The episode that reveals the contestants who will perform on the live shows is usually one of the highest-rated "X Factor" episodes of the year, but now the ratings for it this year will be messed up, because in some time zones in the U.S., the episode was partially shown on October 17, 2012, while in other time zones, Fox affiliates showed an "X Factor" rerun that night.
But what made it really obvious that Fox no longer cares about "The X Factor" U.S. is that in the Eastern and Central time zones, in addition to showing a baseball game instead of "The X Factor," Fox also chose to televise partial episodes of sitcoms "Ben and Kate" and "The Mindy Project" in the "X Factor" time slot.
This wasn't a bone-headed mistake by low-level technical operators. This was a deliberate decision made in advance by high-level executives at Fox.
And now that the episode has been rescheduled for October 23, 2012, "The X Factor" is going to get clobbered in the ratings by CBS's "NCIS," ABC's "Dancing With the Stars" and NBC's "The Voice." It's another nail in the coffin for "The X Factor" U.S.*
So how did "The X Factor" U.S. go from being the most expensive reality show ever with so much potential to be a blockbuster to being a money-losing show with declining ratings? Season 2 of "The X Factor" U.S. has definitely been its downfall because of many dumb business decisions.
Here are the Top 5 failures of "The X Factor" U.S. in Season 2:
I correctly predicted that "The X Factor" U.S. would lose millions of viewers if Spears became a judge on the show. (Click here for more details.) This incredibly stupid mistake of hiring Spears wouldn't have been so bad if the show didn't waste a reported $15 million for her "X Factor" salary. (Fox's "Glee" has also been losing viewers, but no one in "Glee's" cast is getting paid $15 million a year, so "Glee" is going to outlast "The X Factor" U.S. in the long run.)
Fans of Spears can make all the excuses in the world and blame everyone else for Spears' failure to increase ratings for the show, but the fact remains that Spears was brought on "The X Factor" U.S. to increase ratings from what the show had in 2011, and because ratings have gone down since she's been on the show, she has been a huge failure for "The X Factor."
There's no doubt that Spears has millions of fans, but just because there are a lot of people who will pay money to see Spears lip sync in concert, that doesn't mean a lot of people want to see her as a judge on a TV show where the contestants are judged on their live vocal abilities. I've said it before and I'll say it again: Spears being a judge on "The X Factor" is like a blind person giving vision tests.
It essentially comes down to this financial fact: Former "X Factor" U.S. judges Paula Abdul and Nicole Scherzinger (who were fired from the show) turned out to be better for the show's business than Spears is.
According to TV Guide, Abdul's "X Factor" salary was $2.5 million in 2011, while Scherzinger's "X Factor" salary was $1.5 million in 2011. That's $4 million for two judges in 2011. If you throw in the $1 million "X Factor" judge salary that Demi Lovato is getting in 2012, that's $16 million for two judges in 2012. (It's a fair comparison, since Spears and Lovato replaced Abdul and Scherzinger on the show.)
- 2011 cost for two judges: $4 million total for Abdul and Scherzinger
- 2012 cost for two judges: $16 million total for Spears and Lovato
In 2012, ratings for the show in 2012 are down an average of 2 million to 3 million U.S. viewers less per episode than what the show had in 2011. In 2011, "The X Factor" U.S. ended the season with an average of 12 million viewers per episode. In 2012, the show is averaging 9 million U.S. viewers per episode. (Source: Nielsen Media Research.)
So in 2011, "The X Factor" U.S. paid a fraction of what the show is paying in 2012 in judges' salaries, and the show got much higher ratings in 2011. The show's expenses that go to judges' salaries have skyrocketed in 2012 for one reason: Spears, who has hurt the show's ratings. You don't have to be an accountant or have a business degree to see what a bad financial decision it was to hire Spears as a judge on "The X Factor." You do the math. Fox apparently has.
2. Khloe Kardashian and waiting too long to replace former "X Factor" U.S. host Steve Jones
When former "X Factor" U.S. host Steve Jones was fired from the show in late January 2012, it took more than nine months for "The X Factor" U.S. to name his replacements: Mario Lopez (an experienced TV host) and Khloe Kardashian (who has no experience as a TV host). Lopez and Kardashian begin their "X Factor" hosting duties when the live episodes start on November 1, 2012.**
In the meantime, Lopez and Kardashian have missed out on bonding with the contestants during auditions, boot camp and the judges' houses. It's too early to know how Kardashian will do in the live episodes, since her main claim to fame is doing staged and heavily edited reality shows with her family, but "The X Factor" has already gotten numerous complaints from viewers about Kardashian being chosen to co-host the show. Many of these viewers say they will no longer watch "The X Factor" as long as Kardashian is on the show.
The National Enquirer is reporting that Lopez and Kardashian are each getting $1 million to host "The X Factor" U.S., so if this report is true, then it's another bad "X Factor" business decision. Jones, who is a well-known TV personality in his native Great Britain, put in more than seven months of work to host the show for less money than what Kardashian is getting, but Jones was and is relatively unknown in the United States. However, Lopez and Kardashian are basically hosting the show for only eight weeks (two months). So that's $2 million to pay two hosts for two months of work. What an incredibly dumb decision.
And there are a few people on "The X Factor" who should be insulted that Kardashian is getting paid $1 million for only two months of work:
- Lopez, because he's a much more experienced TV host than Kardashian is. If he's getting paid the same amount as Kardashian for hosting "The X Factor," then he should fire his agent immediately.
- Lovato, whose "X Factor" salary is a reported a little more than $1 million. She's worked longer and harder on the show than Kardashian ever will, so it's insulting to Lovato that she's getting paid about the same salary as Kardashian.
- L.A. Reid, because even though his "X Factor" judge salary has not been publicly revealed, it's pretty certain that he's making less money from the show per week than Kardashian is. In other words, if Kardashian worked the same number of weeks that Reid works on the show, based on how much she's getting paid per week, she would be making more "X Factor" money than Reid.
3. Catering too much to a teenage female audience
I've already explained in another article why it's been a major blunder for "The X Factor" U.S. to alienate millions of viewers by catering too much to a teenage female audience. "American Idol" and "The Voice" U.S. would never have the ratings that they do if they had this "teenage girl" marketing strategy that "The X Factor" has. Unfortunately, this short-sighted marketing strategy has resulted in lower ratings for "The X Factor" U.S.
Unlike "American Idol," which has a contestant age limit of 16 to 28 years old, "The X Factor" U.S. has no upper age limit but has wasted an opportunity to showcase the talents of older artists by all but excluding people over the age of 40 from the Top 16 in 2012.
In 2011, three of the Top 16 contestants were over the age of 40: Stacy Francis (42 years old at the time) Dexter Haygood (49 years old at the time) and Leroy Bell (60 years old at the time). In 2012, there is only one contestant in the Top 16 who is at least 40 years old (40-year-old Vino Alan), and he is the oldest contestant on the show.
In the show's Groups category in 2012, the vast majority of the contestants are teenagers, compared to the Groups category 2011, where there was a more even balance of teens and people in their 20s.
And in 2012, "The X Factor" U.S. stacked the odds in favor of contestants under the age of 25, by eliminating gender-based categories and creating two categories specifically for people under the age of 25: Teens (for solo singers ages 12 to 16) and Young Adults (for solo singers ages 17 to 24). The Overs category age minimum was lowered from 30 to 25.
This is all part of the show's failed marketing strategy to appeal more to teenage girls. The lower ratings are proof that this strategy is a failure.
4. Eliminating talented contestants in favor of contestants who bring manufactured drama to the show
TV talent shows will always get complaints when judges eliminate certain contestants, but "The X Factor" U.S. in 2012 probably got more complaints for the judges' decisions than any U.S. talent show on TV this year. Many viewers expressed outrage that a drama-queen, off-key contestant like 27-year-old Tara Simon (who was eventually eliminated at judges' houses) was chosen over more talented contestants who were rejected, such as 42-year-old Panda Ross and 36-year-old Jeffrey Gutt.
Likewise, viewers also complained that 21-year-old CeCe Frey (another arrogant drama queen) made it to the Top 16 over 20-year-old Jillian Jensen, although it can be argued that Frey is technically a better singer than Jensen.
Numerous viewers have said that they are boycotting "The X Factor" U.S. because Ross, Gutt and Jensen have been eliminated before viewers got a chance to vote for these contestants.
The elimination of Ross outraged viewers the most. Unlike Gutt and Jensen, Ross was completely edited out of the "X Factor" boot camp episodes. That "boot camp" shunning of Ross angered viewers even more, because viewers never got to see for themselves how well she did at boot camp and if her elimination was justified or not. Instead, "The X Factor" chose to give more screen time to the catty antics of Simon and Frey.
And speaking of manufactured drama, viewers have had mixed reactions to the obviously scripted backstage/off-stage scenes that the show started having in 2012, in lieu of having a host for the show in the prerecorded episodes. This new format for "The X Factor" U.S. obviously isn't working because the ratings are lower than the previous year when the show did not have so much staged/scripted backstage drama.
5. Bad editing in the prerecorded episodes
"The X Factor" U.S. has gotten numerous complaints from viewers about how bad and choppy the editing has gotten for the prerecorded episodes, compared to the show's editing in 2011. Here are some examples of the bad editing in 2012:
- Some contestants who made it to the Top 32/judges' houses never had their auditions shown. The contestants were abruptly introduced without giving viewers a chance to see what these contestants' auditions were like.
- Some contestants were shown performing in crucial "battle round" scenes but their names were never shown. However, the favored contestant who made it through to the next round was clearly identified, making it obvious who was going to win in that battle.
- Performances were talked about on the show but never televised.
Taking all of these failures into consideration and the resulting downward spiral for the ratings, it's no wonder that "The X Factor" U.S. is on the chopping block.
(I'm not counting the disappointing sales for former "X Factor" U.S. contestants, who have failed to have big hits on the U.S. charts, because that's the responsibility of the record companies, not the TV network and the TV production companies. Melanie Amaro, the first winner of "The X Factor" U.S., is a $5 million flop.)
Syco Television (Cowell's production company) and FremantleMedia North America are the two TV production companies behind "The X Factor" U.S., and they are at the mercy of Fox to decide the fate of the show. But when the show gets cancelled, neither production company is going to go out of business. In the U.S., FremantleMedia North America still has Fox's "American Idol" as its biggest success (and it's still the highest-rated entertainment series in the U.S.), while Syco still has NBC's "America's Got Talent," which is still one of NBC's highest-rated shows, even though ratings for "American Idol" and "America's Got Talent" plummeted in 2012.
Cowell may be devastated by the failure of "The X Factor" U.S. when it gets cancelled, but he has bounced back from failure before, and this should be an opportunity for him and his "X Factor" colleagues to learn from their mistakes. Unfortunately for them, many of these mistakes made on "The X Factor" U.S. could have been avoided if they really paid attention to what the majority of viewers wanted instead of chasing after and overpaying controversial celebrities such as Spears and Kardashian.
Even Steven Spielberg, one of the most powerful people in the entertainment industry, is not immune to failure. He was an executive producer of the dinosaur drama "Terra Nova," which Fox cancelled in 2012 after one season. The show was axed not because "Terra Nova" was Fox's lowest-rated show but because it was just too costly for the network. The mediocre ratings for the show could no longer justify the show's expenses, which is ultimately the same reason why "The X Factor" U.S. will get cancelled.
Many people have wanted Cowell to go back to being a judge on "The X Factor" U.K. anyway, and that will likely happen when "The X Factor" U.S. gets cancelled. Cowell may miss his reported $75 million annual "X Factor" U.S. salary when the show gets cancelled, but what will probably hurt him more is his wounded pride and the fact that not only was a show that he created such a massive failure in the United States but also that "American Idol" and "The Voice" (rival shows that he has trashed in interviews) outlasted and got much higher ratings than "The X Factor" in the United States.
At least the U.K. version of "The X Factor" is still the top-rated show in the United Kingdom, and Cowell's "X Factor" and "Got Talent" franchises are big successes in many other countries around the world. And then there's also all the money he's making from the artists on Syco Music, the record company that he co-owns with Sony Music. One Direction (a boy band from "The X Factor" U.K.) is currently Syco Music's biggest cash cow, and "Britain's Got Talent" alum Susan Boyle is a distant second.
Arrogance and greed can lead to major downfalls and failures. Let this be a lesson to all of those responsible for making the worst decisions for "The X Factor" U.S.
*October 19, 2012 update: Fox has rescheduled this judges' houses episode again and reduced the episode from two hours to one hour. Fox will televise the episode on October 23, 2012, from 9:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Eastern/Pacific Time. Click here for more details.
October 22, 2012 update: "The X Factor" U.S. has been renewed for a third season, under the condition that the show drastically reduce spending. The skyrocketing spending was the No. 1 reason why the show was on the chopping block to get cancelled. "The X Factor" U.S. is also going to be retooled in Season 3 to correct the show's failures that have been pointed out in this article. Click here for more information.
**October 29, 2012 update: Due to Major League Baseball's World Series of 2012 ending earlier than expected, the first live "X Factor" U.S. episode of 2012 has been rescheduled for October 31, 2012, at 8 p.m. Eastern/Pacific Time. Fox says the episode will be two hours and seven minutes. Click here for more details.