"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. 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.*
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:
1. Britney Spears
I correctly predicted that "The X Factor" U.S. would lose millions of viewers if Spears became a judge on the show. 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 show 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 in concert, that doesn't mean a lot of people want to see her as a judge on a reality TV show.
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" 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.)
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.
3. Catering too much to a teenage female audience
4. Eliminating talented contestants in favor of contestants who bring manufactured drama to the show
5. Bad editing in the prerecorded episodes
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.
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.