Singing competitions battle for your ratings

When Simon Cowell announced that he was leaving “American Idol” to executive-produce the U.S. version of “The X-Factor” in January 2010, both critics and fans couldn’t help but worry about the future of “Idol.” Nevertheless, “Idol” remained the highest-rated reality singing competition on television.

“The X-Factor” was a huge success in the United Kingdom, and Cowell was hoping that same success would translate across the pond. Fast-forward to the U.S. premiere of “The X-Factor” in 2011 where the anticipation was high — judges included former Pussycat Dolls lead Nicole Scherzinger along with familiar faces Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell. In spite of all this, ratings for “The X-Factor” were dismal. The show premiered to only 12.5 million viewers instead of the 20 million Cowell had predicted.

Why didn’t “The X-Factor” become the runaway hit Fox had hoped for in the fall? Critics of “The X-Factor” pointed to excessive hype around the judges as the source of the show’s demise. In response, producers revamped the show by replacing Scherzinger and Abdul with two new judges — Britney Spears and former Disney star Demi Lovato. Fans and critics were curious to see the chemistry between the new judges, but more importantly the interaction between Spears and Cowell — Spears has never been known for stunning vocal talent. So far, the change has not done the trick for “The X-Factor.” The show premiered to 8.5 million viewers this season, 35 percent lower than last year’s premiere, and came in second place to rival show “The Voice.”

Just as “The X-Factor” was about to begin, “Idol” announced that they were also shaking things up and bringing on three new judges. Randy Jackson will now be joined by country star Keith Urban, pop icon Mariah Carey and hip-hop star Nicki Minaj. While Urban has enjoyed a successful country career and Carey has sold over 200 million records, Minaj is a bit of a wildcard, better known for her colorful costumes and animated style of rap than her singing. “Idol’s” loyal fans and new judges have all but guaranteed a number-one spot for its January premiere.

It’s still too early in the season to completely count out “The X-Factor,” but with disappointing premiere ratings the road ahead doesn’t look too promising. Unless “The X-Factor’s” producers can add something fresh to the show besides judges, “Idol” will continue to prevail for seasons to come.

A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, Oct. 2 print edition. Bria Mariette is a contributing writer. Email her at [email protected]