Cowell’s ‘X Factor’ Falls Short

Ratings have been lower than expected, and it's costing Fox

Last summer, Fox readily shelled out $20 million to launch Simon Cowell’s new talent show, X Factor, in hopes of creating a flashier update of American Idol. But one month in, the once buzzed-about show is failing to live up to the hype.

According to The Wall Street Journal, X Factor has pulled in an average 12.2 million viewers since its premiere, which falls far below the 20 million that Cowell said the show would need in order to avoid being a “disappointment.” (Meanwhile, in its 10th season, American Idol was still drawing 25.2 viewers on average.)

The bumpy ratings have been partially due to the schedule shifting caused by Fox’s postseason baseball and could continue to be negatively impacted as other reality shows like Idol and NBC’s The Voice launch their promotional campaigns for next season.

As a result of the show’s less-than-stellar numbers, says WSJ, its network has been forced to lower ad prices and compensate its current advertisers—including X Factor’s biggest sponsor, PepsiCo—with extra time on the show. While a Fox source said that the network is selling ads “at or above ‘upfront’ pricing,” which averaged $400,000 for a 30-second spot, some media buyers said that the network is now selling those spots for as low as $280,000.

Still, it’s not all bad news. According to the WSJ, X Factor has helped Fox to revive its weak fall lineup, boosting Thursday night viewership by 59 percent and helping the network to win the night among 18-to-49-year-olds for the first time ever.

“Right now—and I'm not just saying this—we are thrilled with the numbers,” Mike Darnell, Fox's president of alternative entertainment, told the WSJ. If X Factor continues to draw its current numbers, he said, “I would be perfectly happy, and the show would become a staple of the network.”