Opening figures are lowest since 2006
Michael Baggs

09:31 20th August 2012

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X Factor returned to TV screens on the weekend, but did so to the show's lowest opening viewing figures since 2006.

8.1 million viewers tuned in to this weekend's opening episodes, and while this was the most-watched show on Saturday night, this was 2.7 million fewer than watched 2011's opening episode.

ITV were quick to defend the show's ratings however, blaming the hot weather for the low number of viewers.

"The X Factor launched on the hottest day of the year and its audience was still over double that of the next nearest programme," said a spokesperson.

"We have a great series ahead, with some fantastic talent this year that viewers can look forward to."

Last week the show's executive producer Richard Holloway defended criticism of the show, saying: “We’re still the number one show on television. Is there anything to complain about? Not really.”

Below: is the X Factor bubble finally ready to burst?

  • Pop Idol: In 2001, light entertainment was changed forever (well, it certainly seems like forever) when Pop Idol appeared on UK screens. Pulling sizable ratings of up to 10million viewers per episode, the show lastest two series before puffing out of steam when Michelle McManus was crowned champ.

  • X Factor is born: Taking the Pop Idol idea and giving it a radical overhaul (well, letting old people get involved), Simon Cowell premiered X Factor on ITV in 2004. Cowell was joined by jolly Louis Walsh and mad old bat Sharon Osborne. The show included a blind entrant and the winner, Steve Brookstein, disappeared after one hit single. No one gave it second though, it was just a bit of telly after all.

  • X Factor series two: Everything changed on the second series of X Factor. The acts were slicker and the judging process harsher - with shock eliminations making front page news, such as series favourite Maria Lawson's elimination.

  • A proper popstar winner: Sure, it's all over for Shayne Ward now, but for a time, he was pop's golden boy, with his lovely beard and tribal tattoos. The winner of series two showed that X Factor had more to offer than a one hit wonder. Ward was recently furious at being left off a promotional video for the 2012 series of X Factor.

  • Leona Lewis: The third series of X Factor had no sense of tension whatsoever. Leona Lewis was the obviously winner from day one, and not even the gelled quiff of closest rival Ray Quinn could shake the shy Hackney lass's claim on the series. Trumping Shayne Ward, Leona went on to score international success with two albums and hit single 'Bleeding Love'.

  • The runners up get famous too: Skipping over the Leon Jackson year (definitely for the best), in 2008 finalists Alexandra Burke and JLS both scored huge success after placing first and second, the first time a runner up had carved out a career after not winning the show. Poor old Eoghan Quigg (who placed third) didn't fare quite so well...

  • The year everyone got famous (apart from the winner): Rebecca Ferguson! Cher Lloyd! One Direction! It's amazing to think that Matt Cardle was the man who won X Factor in 2010, considering the three less popular acts in the competition are now multi-million selling international artists. This was the year when winning the show suddenly didn't seem like such a victory after all.

  • The PR overdrive: Even by X Factor standards - 2012 has been a non-stop onslaught of endless tabloid rumours on who is, and who isn't going to appear on the show. Kelly Rowland? Dannii Minogue? Geri Halliwell? Simon Cowell? Every day, a new story about the show has been pushed in our faces, leading to fatigue long before the show has even begun. Will X Factor PR itself out of existence?

  • Don't fret - the bubble will burst: All this has happened before and all this will happen again. From 1964 - 1978, TV schedules were dominated by Opportunity Knocks, the predecessor to the likes of X Factor and American Idol. Hugely successful, the show ran for 14 years, but nothing lasts forever, and with dwindling interest in the artists the show produces, surely it is only a matter of time...

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