'X Factor' Ratings Drop: 5 Ways to Turn the Tide for Season 3

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'X Factor' Ratings
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I’d hate to beat a dead horse, especially as my TV reporting colleagues have been doing a pretty good job of it already. But, FOX’s The X Factor has to face the music…

After a season of sagging ratings, the talent competition saw a rise in its finale week, reaching a season high of 9.6 million viewers. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the viewership for Thursday’s live finale results show still represents a drop from the 12.6 million viewers who watched the grand finale last season.

This season, the show was able to create buzz. New judges Britney Spears and Demi Lovato certainly held our curiosity for the season debut. And in the absence of a host, the show got rave reviews for its gritty behind the scenes storytelling with the contestants. And the ongoing search for new co-hosts got dangerously (possibly on purpose) close to its live episodes and ended with Khloe Kardashian Odom and Mario Lopez casting announcements at the eleventh hour.

So, why couldn’t The X Factor sustain the buzz and retain its Season 1 audience? And how can that be fixed on Season 3? Here’s my suggestions.

1. Make talent the real focus and don’t just give it lip service. As much as Simon Cowell likes to minimize NBC’s The Voice’s spinning chairs as just another gimmick, at least they keep the focus on real talent. Too often, The X Factor clearly went for drama over talent. CeCe Frey didn’t just suddenly have pitch problems during live shows. There was always a problem there. But, she was brash, competitive and they could milk the supposed rivalry between her and Paige Thomas for weeks. That brings me to my second suggestion…

2. Cut out the continual buzz generating. It has been a long time since anyone could call TV the “boob tube.” Today’s freshest ideas and most talented people are on TV. And along with that, the viewing audience has become a lot more sophisticated about their choices. In this environment, buzz doesn't create a loyal viewer. Sure, the viewing audience may be feeling some overload on TV talent competitions (as Simon suggested this week), but how does that explain The Voice’s increasing ratings this season? So, the real question here is why did the viewing audience choose not to return to The X Factor? I think the show's constant buzz gave way to white noise.

3. Stop revealing the rankings as the show approaches later rounds. Sure, it was new and informative when the show first introduced rankings. It was particularly mind-blowing to see that boy group Emblem3 wasn’t topping the votes and that country singer Tate Stevens actually was. But, as the show got closer to the final rounds, I think they needed to shut down the rankings process. The air of mystery was really hard to capture – no matter how much they wanted us to believe “anything could happen.”

4. Ditch the two-hour format. Sure, it’s attractive to package two hours of TV to advertisers. But, what’s the real worth of that when your audience is fatigued from talent shows and doesn’t want all the fluff? If the show really wants to do something groundbreaking, it should go to a one-hour format and respect our precious primetime.

5. Britney Spears should stay, but she has to find some passion for the gig. Britney certainly piqued our interest in the beginning, but what did she really offer as far as constructive criticism? Terse (admittedly, at times amusing) statements like, “It was really exciting” or “I’m very proud of her,” even “I just don’t get it.” But, let’s face it; most of us have no idea when someone is being pitchy or when a singer could’ve started a song in a lower key. We look to the judges to tell us those things. Simon and L.A. Reid may be the ones to tell us if an act can be packaged into a hit, but the musical expertise comes from the performer judges, no? Should Britney do another season? With L.A. leaving, it would be nice to have some stability on the panel. But, if she stays, she has to find some way to warm up to the position.

How would you change The X Factor next season?

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  • Jethro Nededog
    Jethro Nededog

    Thank you, Andy. I too think getting more out of Britney will be a feat too. But, it would really do her and the show well if she could dig deep into the things that made her a successful pop star in the first place and find a way to be "on" when the cameras are rolling. Your other points are certainly good ones too.

  • Houstonandy

    And a few more ideas: 1. Britney Spears..don't think it's lack of passion for the gig. It appears she has a very understated personality. This does not make for good tv viewing. "I'm so proud of you." gets old quickly, 2. Leave the overblown, exaggerated production for the finale. I want to hear and see the contestants, not the dancers or the laser lights. 3. Agree with everything else you said.

  • Jethro Nededog
    Jethro Nededog

    JustBCos, I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for Paula to come back to "X Factor." But, you make a good point that viewers liked the relationship between her and Simon and they like Paula. Also, I too think Daryl Black was refreshing and could've literally brought soul to the show. I'm very interested to see who Simon chooses to replace L.A. My vote is for musician/producers like Babyface, David Foster or Dianne Warren or Missy Elliott.

  • Jethro Nededog
    Jethro Nededog

    Thank you, Emma. I do believe that the viewing audience wants to see spectacular undiscovered talent. The constant drama created between contestants should feel more natural and less produced by the show. Again, TV viewers are smarter than that.

  • Jethro Nededog
    Jethro Nededog

    You make a good point about Simon. I feel there's something missing in his personality that he had back in the "Idol" days. As far as Paula, I don't believe she was a problem on Season 1. She should have kept her job.

  • JusBCos

    I agree with Sheryl ... After L.A. Reid passed on Daryl Black I saw no reason to watch. If X Factor is not going to focus on finding the "real deal" what is the point of the show at all. Melanie Amaro was the genuine article and kept me watching but season 2 did not have that ( although Carly Rose was a real find ) so why waste my time. I was also dumbfounded at the choices of Mario Lopez and especially Khloe Kardashian!!! Has Simon become so desperate that he feels the need to jump on the mindless Kardashian bandwagon, and if so he could at least pick the pretty ones. The only way I watch X Factor next year is if Simon gets on his hands and knees and begs Paula to return. The chemistry between those two alone was always worth the price of admission and now that L.A. has decided to leave Simon is going to need an established professional. She brings credibility to the show and at this point with Simon faced with re-tooling the entire show so I think that is where he should start.

  • Emma Villatoro
    Emma Villatoro

    True dat, true dat... It was very shocking to me when I heard about the ratings because they pull out every stunt possible to get the ratings up but what it says its definitely true, they prefer the drama over the talent.

  • Sheryl Tractker
    Sheryl Tractker

    When something doesn't and hasn't worked it is just best to give it up and walk away from it, like Paula did and like Britney will hopefully be smart enough to do. Simon seems so sad now, he can't even get L.A. Reid to be on the show. The only way they will have an increase in ratings is if by some lucky chance for them Paula comes back, if not, it will remain around the 3rd to 4th rated series. AGT can probably bring in better judges then X-factor at this point.