Fox's The X Factor under-delivered the audience the network guaranteed to advertisers in the upfront by 40%. And yet, despite that number, the show was still one of the most successful new series on television this season, and brought good value to both advertisers and the network.
In addition to very credible viewer totals and 18-49 ratings, the show helped Fox to one of the strongest fourth quarters in its history and brought in new Hispanic and African-American viewers -- a bonus reach for advertisers. And because the upfront process guarantees make-goods for under-delivery, chances are many X Factor advertisers will be asking for-and getting-some of those ads on Fox's behemoth American Idol, which premieres Jan. 18.
Fox can't be blamed for overselling X Factor. The show received massive media hype, touting ratings practically of Idol proportions. Fox may have been internally vowing not to raise the upfront bar too high, but it's not always easy to turn money away, especially with top judge Simon Cowell leading the crowing. And many times it hurts less to under-deliver than to lament all the lost money if you over-deliver.
Still, despite pundit opinion to the contrary, The X Factor was a hit beyond almost all other new shows when you check the numbers:
- The show averaged 12.4 million total viewers and an 18-49 average rating of 4.2 for all episodes, including specials.
- It increased Fox's average ratings on Wednesday and Thursday nights by 48% and 46%, respectively, over the previous year and helped the network win almost every Thursday night.
- It was the second highest-rated new show in primetime among teens.
- The network's 50-plus ratings in fourth quarter were up 22% to a 3.8. Much of that came from older viewers tuning in to X Factor. (Interestingly, Fox became more 50-plus skewing in fourth quarter than NBC.)
What intangible benefits did X Factor have for Fox?
- The X Factor was among the Top 5 most watched new shows among ethnic minorities, and was the No. 1 show overall among African-American adults 18-49.
- On Wednesdays and Thursdays, the series rated second- and third-highest, respectively, among new shows this season for Hispanic viewers 18-49.
Advertisers on Fox were also helped by The X Factor intangibles: The show boosted ratings for Fox primetime shows it led into and helped stabilize the network overall with the constant disruption and preempting of scripted programming as a result of the Major League Baseball playoff telecasts and the World Series.
The X Factor returns to Fox later this season with some tweaks. Here's one big change: You can expect the network not to put itself in a situation where it has to pay back 40% in make-goods.