So it really does seem like it may be the end of days for The X Factor – just take a look at the run of misfortune that’s plagued the show this series: dwindling audience figures, embarrassing hosting gaffes, insensitive behaviour, social media storms over the appearance of both a judge and a host, the general paucity of talent on the stage every Saturday and Sunday night – the list goes on.
The doom and gloom surrounding The X Factor has only intensified this week with the news that ITV has acquired (or, as the acting BBC director Mark Linsey not-so-subtly put it, “poached”) the similarly-flagging show The Voice from the BBC, which could mean that the reign of Simon Cowell’s chart-bothering, ex-ratings juggernaut may soon be coming to a rather ignominious end.
To catch you up with the latest developments in what’s already turning into a rather sorry story for Cowell and co, here are some of the key points so far.
ITV are positively giddy about The Voice’s 2017 launch
You can’t imagine that Simon was too pleased when he heard about how the deal to bring The Voice to ITV came about: it may or may not have been influenced by ITV’s recent purchase of the production company Talpa, which is owned by The Voice creator John de Mol. The nature of that transaction was hardly a ringing endorsement of The X Factor’s long-held status as one of ITV’s priority entertainment programmes.
And so, come 2017, it’ll likely be out with Grimmy, ‘deadlock’ and Rita Ora, and in with will.i.am, spinning chairs and, er, Boy George. ITV are also looking to start the spin-off The Voice Kids, which, aside from being a slightly terrifying prospect in itself, will mean that the channel will have three different singing competitions on its hands – that’s too many for terrestrial TV, let alone one network.
Simon Cowell isn’t much of a fan of The Voice
“That show puzzles me because it starts off and ‘it’s all about the voice’,” Cowell initially said about The Voice in May 2012. “So my first thought is, ‘Why isn’t this on [the] radio?’, because what’s the point in looking at them? Then suddenly I’m watching it a week or two weeks ago and it’s the same as The X Factor. They’ve got dancers behind them, graphics, lights. Same show… I see a lot of shows trying to rip us off. If you try and rip somebody off it always looks like a bad copy.”
Four months later, he got The Ellen Show audience to boo the US version of The Voice in a move so pantomime that it still hurts to watch, and then, rather unfortunately given recent events, expounded upon his frustrations with the rival show: “When you play with the audience and say to them, ‘You can’t watch two shows [The X Factor and The Voice]’, it’s a spoiling tactic… My gut feeling is that it’s going to backfire on [The Voice], because you don’t mess with audience.”
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Presumably his opinion on The Voice hasn’t changed too much in the three and a half years since he openly disparaged its launch in the US, and therefore we have to assume that Cowell isn’t going to be too thrilled about the prospect of sharing the ITV calendar in less than two years’ time.
Besides, he’s going to be rather busy anyway
Cowell has got Britain’s Got Talent (which returns to ITV in April) and its American equivalent to worry about – he told US Weekly that he’ll be returning to the next series of the latter as a judge, which might go some way towards determining (from the outside, at least) Cowell’s focus for the next few years.
Winning The X Factor doesn’t guarantee success anymore
Could you name the past three X Factor winners? Don’t worry if you can’t – it’s doubtful that even co-host Olly Murs could remember who went out on last week’s show. But how can a talent show that promises its entrants fame, fortune and some semblance of a music career after the long slog of auditions, camera crews and live shows actually deliver so poorly on that front?
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The answer to that first question, by the way, is thus: 2012 – James Arthur; 2013 – Sam Bailey; 2014 – Ben Haenow.
ITV haven’t cancelled The X Factor… yet
It may not be all bad news for Cowell, Murs, Flack et al. ITV’s director of television Peter Fincham threw the X Factor squad a bone by hinting that The X Factor can co-exist with ITV’s new toy, stating in the accompanying announcement about the acquisition: “ITV is the natural home of big entertainment, so we are thrilled that The Voice [is] joining our family alongside brilliant shows like The X Factor, Britain’s Got Talent and I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!”
Besides, ITV has already confirmed that its contract with The X Factor has another year left, confirming that it plans to air a new series in 2016. TV insiders are still, however, expecting that the show’s failings in the ratings war against Strictly, combined with constant accusations of the weekly results show either being “fixed” or “false”, may mean that next year’s edition could be its last.
NME approached ITV to clarify the future of the beleaguered singing show beyond that date, but they declined to comment.
The Voice will need a strong launch
Soon-to-be-former Voice judge Ricky Wilson said that the producers of the show’s new iteration “would want to have a totally new show” – in order to ensure that it makes the biggest splash since, well, not Splash. Difficult to do that when you’re jostling against a direct competitor on the same network.