The X Factor (British TV series)

Last updated

The X Factor
The X Factor logo.png
Genre Reality competition
Created by Simon Cowell
Directed byPhil Heyes
Creative directors
  • Brian Friedman
  • Brian Burke
  • Elizabeth Honan
  • Jerry Reeve
  • Mark Swanhart
  • Ashley Evans
  • Antony Ginandjar
Presented by
Voices of
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original languageEnglish
No. of series15
No. of episodes445
Executive producers
  • Simon Cowell
  • Richard Holloway
  • Beth Hart
  • Mark Sidaway
  • Cheryl [1]
  • Caroline Davies
  • Lee McNicholas
  • Iona Mackenzie
Running time60–150 minutes
Production companies
Distributor Fremantle
Original network ITV
Picture format
Original release4 September 2004 (2004-09-04) 
2 December 2018 (2018-12-02)
Related shows
External links
Official website

The X Factor is a British reality television music competition, created by Simon Cowell. Premiering on 4 September 2004, it was produced by Fremantle's Thames and Cowell's production company Syco Entertainment for ITV, [2] as well as simulcast on Virgin Media One in Ireland. The programme ran for around 445 episodes across fifteen series, each one primarily from scheduled between late summer to early winter, until its final episode in December 2018. All episodes were presented by Dermot O'Leary, with some exceptions: the first three series were originally hosted by Kate Thornton; while Caroline Flack and Olly Murs hosted the show for the twelfth series.


Each year of the competition saw contestants of all ages and backgrounds auditioning for a place, in hopes of proving that they had singing talent. Auditionees attempted to do so before a panel of judges, each selected for their background in the music industry   these have included Cowell, Louis Walsh, Sharon Osbourne, Cheryl Cole, Gary Barlow, Rita Ora, and Robbie Williams. Those that made it through the auditions entered a bootcamp stage in which the judges each took charge of a category of contestants to mentor, determining who may move on to the live stages of the contest, with a public vote in the live rounds eliminating these contestants one by one. The winner of the live final received a recording contract with record label Syco Music and a cash payment, though the majority was allocated to marketing and recording costs. [3]

At the same time of its premiere, The X Factor was accompanied by spin-off behind-the-scenes show called The Xtra Factor on ITV2, which focused on the recent episode's performances; this was later replaced in 2016 with an online spin-off show, Xtra Bites, on ITV Hub. [4] The programme itself proved popular on British television, [5] attracting high viewing figures at its peak   over 14 million on average in the seventh series   leading to the formation of an international franchise. In addition, many of its winners, including JLS, Diana Vickers, One Direction and Ella Henderson, later went on to release singles that entered number-one in the UK charts.

From 2011, viewing figures began to decline, and Cowell later opted to rest the programme in 2019, assigning two spin-offs as mini-series that year   The X Factor: Celebrity and The X Factor: The Band . On 28 July 2021, ITV announced that the programme had been axed. [6]


Simon Cowell, creator of The X Factor and the second longest-serving judge in the programme's history. Simon Cowell in December 2011.jpg
Simon Cowell, creator of The X Factor and the second longest-serving judge in the programme's history.

The programme's format was devised by Sony Music executive Simon Cowell in 2004. [7] The concept for The X Factor stemmed from his involvement as a judge on Pop Idol , another music talent competition that ITV aired from 2001–2003. While the programme had been massively successful in its own right, Cowell disliked the lack of control that he and the judges had on the contestant's progress   several individuals, including fellow judge Pete Waterman, agreed with him that a contestant who won the second series of Pop Idol had been unworthy to earn victory compared to others who had participated. [8]

Cowell eventually made plans to devise a new televised competition, in which he would own the television rights and thus maintain control on decisions held on the new programme. In 2004, ITV secured the rights to broadcast The X Factor after Cowell approached them with his concept, [7] despite a legal challenge by Simon Fuller, the creator of Pop Idol, over perceived similarities between the two shows. [9]



Each year's competition begins with auditions round, which consists of three stages held several months prior to the series premiere, and within venues around the United Kingdom; in some series, auditions were also allowed within the Republic of Ireland. Participants are required to provide a performance across each stage, focused on singing a piece from another artist to gauge their musical talent. The first round consists of auditionees performing before production staff   either by application and appointment, or at "open" auditions that anyone can attend. Those wishing to apply could do so via postal or online applications, [10] with The X Factor having no upper-age limit, and no restriction on groups participating. If an auditionee passes this stage, they then move on to the second stage in which they perform before a senior production member. [11] Both of these stages are not filmed, but shots of the crowds waiting to audition are later spliced into audition episodes during final editing; the televised version can sometimes misrepresent the process in this fashion by implying that huge crowds all perform before the judges. [11]

Participants that make it to the third stage of auditions then conduct their performance and potential singing talent before the judges for that year's competition. To proceed into the next round of the contest, each participant must secure a majority vote from the judges, otherwise they are eliminated at this point; the judges themselves will usually comment on what they heard first, before they cast their vote. For the majority of series (Series 1-5, 10-11, and 13-14), the third stage auditions were conducted in a closed room in which performance were done without a backing track, while for other series, they were conducted before a live audience (similar to Britain's Got Talent , with performances either done a cappella or over a backing track. Filming takes place during this stage, with the final edits for audition episodes focusing on the best, the worst and the most bizarre. [12]

Bootcamp and judges' houses

In the second round, participants who reach this stage are sent to a "bootcamp" to refine their performances, while they are organised into categories based on the conditions of their application. The first two category consists of men and women solo acts aged under 24   both categories were conjoined in early series until separated in the fourth series   with the minimum age allowed being 16 (except for the fourth to sixth series where it was lowered to 14). The third category consists of men and women solo acts aged over 25 (with the exception of a few series were the minimum age was raised to 28). [13] [14] [15] [16] The final category consists of group acts, which include two or more members within each group. During this time, the producers decide on which judge for that year's competition is assigned to mentoring one of the category of participants. After the judges receive their assigned category, they then oversee two stages of performances from participants in each category, in which they must whittle down the number of participants to around six per category (eight for the seventh and eighth series). [13] The process varies across the programme's history   in most cases, their performances during this stage determines whether they move on to the next round or not; in some series, audition tapes are reviewed before the round with the judges making their choices before this stage of the competition.

Once the judges each have their selected participants for their category to mentor, these participants move on to the "judges' home" stage of the competition, which is held in private residences for each judge; according to Louis Walsh, these homes tend to not belong to the judges, but rented out for this purpose. [17] In this stage, the participants each conduct a performance before their category's judge, who must decide which of their group will proceed into the live rounds. [18] [19]

Both the bootcamp and the judges' homes stages of the contest are pre-recorded, though in some cases, either between the first and second stages of Bootcamp or prior to judges' houses, judges may look at certain rejected solo artists who they feel have potential but may be better suited in a group, and in an attempt to give them a lifeline, then send these acts into a room to form a number of different groups, each depending on size, height, fashion and chemistry. Lineup changes may also sometimes occur depending on what the judges feel the group is missing or which members they think work well with others. In the tenth series, the bootcamp stage was changed to a new format called "Six-Chair Challenge" in which participants had to secure a majority vote to sit in one of six empty chairs for their category, to move into the next stage; if all six seats were filled, the judge of that category must replace one of these participants with another they wish to see through. This new format, despite some tweaks, was not well received by viewers after its introduction. [20]

Elimination stages and Final

Louis Walsh2009July.jpg
Louis Walsh, longest-serving judge on The X Factor in all but two series.
Sharon Osbourne 2, 2012.jpg
Sharon Osbourne, a judge for the first three series, and then again in 2013, and 2016-17
Dermot Oleary by Walterlan Papetti.jpg
Dermot O'Leary served the longest as the programme's host from 2007, with a one-year break in 2015

Contestants who make it through both the second and third stages eventually enter the live rounds of the competition. By this stage they compete against each other over a series of elimination heats, with those that make it through competition to win in a live final, with these filmed in two parts in a fixed studio venue (except for the final after the eighth series): a performance episode featuring all active participants; and a results episode, which includes a live or pre-recorded performances by celebrity performers. During this time, they move into shared accommodation while involved in the live episodes, sharing this with production staff; [21] filming "behind-the-scenes" within the accommodation is frequently down and used in live episodes for The Xtra Factor. In some series, some additional participants are sometimes selected from the rejects to act as wildcards in these stages, alongside those who progressed to the live episodes.

In these stages, each participant not only performs on live television, but also before the judges and a live studio audience. Their routine is often designed to fully judge their singing talent, appearance, personality and stage presence that may not have been noticeable during auditions, with their routine focusing a performance to a specific song   originally a pop or contemporary hit from the charts in early series, before being later assigned based on the musical theme for the episode. Performance may sometimes be accompanied by backing dancers and musicians, and, in some cases, participants may also provide their own music and/or dance routines. At the end of each performance, the judges provide feedback on each performance, with their discussions often regularly adding entertainment value to each live episode. However, success is determined by the public vote in each episode. The system involves the same phone number, with exception for the last two digits which, beginning at "01", is assigned to each participant by order of appearance. The phone number is displayed twice for viewers   once after a participant's performance is over, and a second time after all performances are completed and phone lines opened. Voting is conducted over a set time period, and closed before the results episode of each stage of the live rounds is shown, with the public vote results not detailing the actual number of votes or the ranked order (1st to last) the public placed each participant in. [22]

In the elimination heats, the two participants to be the lowest ranked in the public vote are revealed, and thus face off against each other in a "final showdown". This consists of conducting a new performance primarily for the judges   while earlier series focused on reprisal of their earlier songs, producers later changed this after the fourth series to allow them to pick new songs to perform to. After their performances are completed, the judges vote on which act to eliminate by a majority vote; though since the fourth series saw the inclusion of a fourth judge, the results in the public vote end the deadlock of a tied vote between the judges. After the number of participants reach a set amount in the final heat, no showdown is involved   the participant who polled with the fewest votes in the public vote is automatically eliminated immediately. In the final, the public vote decides the winner, who receives at the end of the competition a £1 million recording contract with Syco Music, in association with Sony Music, which, by the beginning of the fifth series, included a £150,000 cash advance with the balance covering the costs of recording and marketing. [3] Other highly placed contestants may also be offered recording deals, but this is not guaranteed. [3]

Judges and presenters

Main judges
Guest judges
  1. Tulisa returned as a guest judge for a single live episode in 2014. She covered for Mel B, who was unable to attend due to illness.
  2. Scherzinger was a guest judge for an episode in the 2010 series.
  3. Mel B was a guest judge in the 2012 series. She later returned as a guest for a single audition episode in 2016 that Scherzinger could not attend due to scheduling conflicts.
  4. Friedman was originally recruited to be a permanent judge to replace Walsh, but was later denoted as a guest judge when he was later reassigned as a creative director on the programme and Walsh agreed to return for the fourth series.
  5. 1 2 3 4 Stood in for Dannii Minogue during her maternity leave.
  6. Only as a stand-in for Rowland in live episodes of this series that she was unable to attend for medical reasons.
  7. 1 2 3 Guest judge for the auditions.
  8. Dixon served as a guest judge on three separate occasions during this series as a stand-in for another judge: for Scherzinger, who could not attend an audition episode due to other commitments; for Osbourne, who could not attend an audition episode due a long-standing back injury; and for Cowell, who could not attend a live episode.
  9. Rogers served as guest judge for three live episodes, as a stand-in for Williams, who had other arrangements during each episodes scheduled airdate.

Judging history

For the first three series after the programme began in 2004, the judging panel consisted of music executive and TV producer Simon Cowell, and music managers Sharon Osbourne and Louis Walsh, while it was presented by Kate Thornton. In March 2007, Thornton was dropped from the programme, with Dermot O'Leary offered a two-year contract, worth £1 million, to take over as host, [23] which eventually led to him ending his involvement in the Big Brother franchise later that year to concentrate on his new role. [24] In June that same year, the judging panel was expanded to include a fourth judge, and saw changes in the lineup: Brian Friedman took over from Walsh when he chose to leave the programme, [25] while Australian singer Dannii Minogue joined the panel. However, Friedman later dropped out of the panel during auditions for the fourth series, being later reassigned as a creative director for the programme, while Walsh agreed to return as a result of this situation. [26] Osbourne later left the programme before the fifth series in 2008, [27] with ITV later replacing her with Cheryl. [28] [29] During the seventh series, Minogue went on maternity leave, leaving the production staff to fill her place on the panel with a series of guest judges during auditions   these included Geri Halliwell, Natalie Imbruglia, Katy Perry, Pixie Lott and Nicole Scherzinger.

In May 2011, Cowell and Cheryl announced their decision to leave the programme before the eighth series, in order to concentrate on the American edition of the programme. [30] That same month, Minogue also left the programme, citing that her schedule for the live episodes of Australia's Got Talent that year would conflict with her involvement with The X Factor. [31] Several celebrities in the music industry were approached to replace all three, [32] [33] before the producers opted for their replacements to be Gary Barlow, Tulisa, and Kelly Rowland. [34] [35] [36] [37] [38] During the eighth series, Rowland was unable to attend live episodes due to medical reasons, leading to previous X Factor winner Alexandra Burke standing in for her. [39] After the series concluded, Rowland opted to drop out of the programme due to other commitments, [40] [41] leading to a series of guest judges being used during the ninth series, [42] before Nicole Scherzinger was chosen as her replacement. [43] [44] In May 2013, Tulisa announced she was leaving The X Factor, [45] with Osbourne revealed to be returning, [46] but later clarifying it was for the tenth series only, [47] with Barlow announcing during its live episodes that he would also be leaving The X Factor after the series' conclusion. [48]

In February 2014, Cowell announced his return as a judge for the eleventh series, [49] [50] as he worked to reinvent the programme. The panel saw him bring back Cheryl as Osbourne's replacement, [51] [52] while replacing Scherzinger with Spice Girls member Mel B. [53] In March 2015, O'Leary announced that he was quitting the show in order to pursue other projects, and was replaced a month later by both Olly Murs and Caroline Flack as co-presenters, [54] the latter having served as a backstage presenter since 2013. [55] Walsh later left the programme in May 2015, after revealing that he had spent enough time on The X Factor. [56] With Mel B not signing up for another series, both judges were replaced by Nick Grimshaw and Rita Ora. [57]

In February 2016, Murs quit the programme to focus on his music career, [58] with Flack later departing the programme around the same time. [59] The following month, O'Leary rejoined the programme as presenter. [60] Alongside the change in presenters, the judging panel was also changed again   after Grimshaw left in February 2016, [61] Cheryl in April, [62] and Ora in May, [63] Cowell was rejoined by Walsh, Osbourne and Scherzinger, [64] for the next two years, [65] though the latter two cast doubts on this arrangement. [66] [67] Cowell was joined on the judging panel by Robbie Williams, Ayda Field and Louis Tomlinson for the fifteenth and final series in 2018. [68] [69]

Series overview

Series No. of
Originally AiredWinner 1 Runner-up 1 Third place 1 Average UK viewers
(millions) [70] 2
First AiredLast Aired
1 244 September 200411 December 2004 Steve Brookstein
Over 25s
Tabby Callaghan
2 3020 August 200517 December 2005 Shayne Ward
Andy Abraham
Over 25s
Journey South
3 3019 August 200616 December 2006 Leona Lewis
Ray Quinn
Ben Mills
Over 25s
4 2818 August 200715 December 2007 Leon Jackson
Rhydian Roberts
Same Difference
5 3016 August 200813 December 2008 Alexandra Burke
Eoghan Quigg
6 3022 August 200913 December 2009 Joe McElderry
Olly Murs
Over 25s
Stacey Solomon
7 3021 August 201012 December 2010 Matt Cardle
Rebecca Ferguson
One Direction
8 3120 August 201111 December 2011 Little Mix
Marcus Collins
Amelia Lily
9 3118 August 20129 December 2012 James Arthur
Jahméne Douglas
Christopher Maloney
Over 28s
10 3231 August 201315 December 2013 Sam Bailey
Over 25s
Nicholas McDonald
Luke Friend
11 3430 August 201414 December 2014 Ben Haenow
Over 25s
Fleur East
Over 25s
Andrea Faustini
12 2829 August 201513 December 2015 Louisa Johnson
Reggie 'n' Bollie
Che Chesterman
13 3227 August 201611 December 2016 Matt Terry
Saara Aalto
Over 25s
5 After Midnight
14 282 September 20173 December 2017 Rak-Su
Grace Davies
Kevin Davy White
Over 25s
15 281 September 20182 December 2018 Dalton Harris
Scarlett Lee
Anthony Russell
6.19 3



Graph showing the trend in UK viewership across the fifteen series, with The X Factor reaching its ratings peak by the seventh series. The X Factor viewership trend.png
Graph showing the trend in UK viewership across the fifteen series, with The X Factor reaching its ratings peak by the seventh series.

When the programme initially began in 2004, its viewing figures fell behind those for the BBC's rival talent show Strictly Come Dancing . However, the situation changed in the following year, when the second series began to attract a larger audience share. [71] While the second series attracted an average of over 8 million viewers during its broadcast, consecutive series increased these figures   peak audience figures for the fourth series' live final surpassed over 12.7 million viewers, achieving a share of 55% share of the terrestrial TV audience, [72] while the sixth series achieved a peak audience of 19.1 million viewers and over 63% of the audience share during its broadcast. [73] Viewing figures reached their peak by 2010, with the seventh series achieving average viewing figures of over 14 million viewers, and its live final achieving a peak audience of 19.4 million viewers. [74]

In 2011, the eighth series achieved an average viewing figure of 12.4 million viewers during its broadcast, and was effectively overtaken in the ratings battle by Strictly Come Dancing, especially for its live final. [75] From 2012 onwards, ratings of The X Factor went into sharp decline   the tenth series achieved an average viewing audience of 8.5 million viewers, much less than Strictly Come Dancing, with later series proving less popular on Saturday evenings compared to other programmes, such as Michael McIntyre's Big Show and Planet Earth II .

By 2017, ratings for the programme were effectively worse off, with The X Factor achieving low average viewing figures of less than seven million viewers, effectively placing its future in doubt after the fifteenth series, and leading to its eventual cancellation. [6]


At the 2005 British Comedy Awards, The X Factor beat Friday Night with Jonathan Ross and Ant & Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway to take the award for Best Comedy Entertainment Programme. This prompting Cowell to remark, "We're not a comedy programme, we're a serious factual drama". [76] In both 2005 and 2006, The X Factor won the award for "Most Popular Entertainment Programme" at the National Television Awards.[ citation needed ] At the same awards in 2007, the show also won the award for "Most Popular Talent Show".[ citation needed ] In 2008 it lost out to Strictly Come Dancing at the TV Quick Awards, TRIC Awards and National Television Awards,[ clarification needed ] despite beating it in the ratings.[ citation needed ] In 2010, The X Factor won "Best Talent Show" at the National Television Awards.[ citation needed ]

The show won the Entertainment award at the 2010 Royal Television Society Awards, described as "Undeniably a brilliant, genre-defining piece of television; the team behind this show never rest on their laurels and are determined to continually raise the bar and set new standards. Must-see television, which everyone talks about on a Monday morning." [77] At the 2011 National Television Awards, The X Factor won the Talent Show award, beating Strictly Come Dancing , Britain's Got Talent and Dancing on Ice . [78] At the 2012 National Television Awards, The X Factor again beat Strictly Come Dancing, Britain's Got Talent and Dancing on Ice to the award. The show also won Best UK TV Show at the 2012 Kids' Choice Awards. [79] At the 2015 National Television Awards, The X Factor won Best Talent Show for the first time in three years, beating Strictly Come Dancing, Britain's Got Talent and The Voice UK . [80]

Controversies and criticism

From the outset, The X Factor has attracted heavy criticism. Recurring allegations include: that the excessive commercialism of the show detracts from its supposed purpose of unearthing musical talent and even actively damages and distorts the UK music industry; [81] that auditionees at mass auditions are shabbily treated; that controversy is deliberately courted and orchestrated, and supposedly spontaneous scenes are staged and scripted; that problems with phone lines leave members of the public unable to vote for their favourite acts; and that contestants are manipulated and unfairly edited.

This criticism became very public in 2009 when a Facebook campaign targeted against The X Factor and its effect on British music took "Killing in the Name" by Rage Against the Machine to the Christmas number one spot at the expense of the X Factor winner's single by Joe McElderry. [82]

The X Factor usually has at least one "novelty" or "joke" act in the live shows, [83] which help to boost ratings and add some fun into the live shows, although they tend to be controversial due to the show being primarily a singing competition. [84] Judge Gary Barlow reportedly had an issue with joke acts when asked to mentor the Overs category in the ninth series, because "Gary doesn't like joke acts and the Overs category is often full of novelty acts." [85] Despite controversially being part of the format, their non-involvement in the tenth series drew criticism: "The fact that the joke contestants made it through to the live shows used to be the most gloriously British part of The X Factor. We love an underdog... It was a vital part of the format." [86]

International broadcasts

CountryChannelPremiere date
Australia Fox8 2017
Brazil Sony 2014
Canada CHEK-DT, Yes TV, [87] Family Channel (29 July 2015) [88]
Denmark DR3 (2014–2017), TV 2 Zulu (2018–)
Ireland TV3
Malta TVM
Poland Fox Life
United States AXS TV
Singapore Mediacorp Channel 5
Southeast Asia Blue Ant Entertainment (formerly RTL CBS Entertainment)
New Zealand TV3 2015
TVNZ 1 2017
Finland Sub 2016
Turkey TV8,5 2017
Jamaica TVJ [89] 2018
Spain TEN [90] 2017


The Xtra Factor (2004–2016)

The Xtra Factor (known as The Xtra Factor Live in 2016) was a behind-the-scenes companion show that was broadcast on ITV2 in the UK and on TV3 in Ireland, usually on Saturday and Sunday nights after the main show, this aired from 4 September 2004 to 11 December 2016. On 18 January 2017, it was announced that The Xtra Factor would be axed after 13 years and would be replaced by an online show instead. [91]

The X Factor: Battle of the Stars (2006)

The X Factor: Battle of the Stars was a celebrity special edition of The X Factor, which screened on ITV, starting on 29 May 2006 and lasting for eight consecutive nights. Pop Idol was intended to be broadcast in its place as Celebrity Pop Idol but was stopped shortly before transmission, when ITV selected The X Factor instead.

Nine celebrity acts participated, singing live in front of the nation and facing the judges of the previous The X Factor series: Cowell, Osbourne and Walsh. Voting revenues were donated to the celebrities' chosen charities. The contestants were Michelle Marsh, Nikki Sanderson, Matt Stevens, Lucy Benjamin, Gillian McKeith, Chris Moyles, Paul Daniels and Debbie McGee, James Hewitt and Rebecca Loos, and "The Chefs", a quartet of celebrity chefs comprising Jean-Christophe Novelli, Aldo Zilli, Paul Rankin and Ross Burden. The winner of the show was Lucy Benjamin, mentored by Walsh. [92]

Xtra Bites (2017–2019)

Xtra Bites is the second companion and spin-off show to The X Factor which replaced The Xtra Factor, although Xtra Bites is an online spin-off show which started airing in 2017. The show looks at all the action from the show including behind the scenes footage of the judges and interviews with contestants from the show. It is uploaded onto ITV Hub, the show's YouTube channel, and the X Factor page on the Just Eat website. There were 13 episodes uploaded altogether for the first series, all presented by Becca Dudley. [93] [94] On 23 August 2018, it was announced that Xtra Bites would return for another series after a successful first series, with new presenters Dudley and Tinea Taylor. [95] Vick Hope took over as host for the celebrity series in 2019. [96]

The X Factor: Celebrity (2019)

A second edition of Battle of the Stars was confirmed in the latter half of 2019 as The X Factor: Celebrity and began in October 2019. The show was won by Megan McKenna, with Max and Harvey finishing as runners-up. [97]

The X Factor: The Band (2019)

In November 2019, Cowell announced that The X Factor: The Band would launch on 9 December 2019, with the premise of finding either the biggest male or female group. Each episode lasted for 90 minutes. [98] The show was won by Real Like You, a girl group composed of Jess Folley, Virginia Hampson, Luena Martinèz, Seorsia Jack, Halle Williams and Kellimarie Willis. [99]

Music releases by The X Factor contestants

As of June 2015, the show has spawned a total of 35 number-one singles: 10 winners' singles (six of which have been the Christmas number one), four charity singles (one each by the finalists of series 5, 6, 7 and 8), and 21 other number-ones by contestants who have appeared on the show (including winners and runners-up).

By series 6 in 2009, it had seemingly become such a certainty that the X Factor winner would gain the Christmas number one slot every year that bookmakers William Hill were considering withdrawing from the 30-year tradition of betting on the outcome. [100] However, hostility to the show's stranglehold on the Christmas number one slot from some quarters had prompted attempts to propel an alternative song to the 2008 Christmas number one spot, and in 2009 a similar internet-led campaign was successful, taking Rage Against the Machine's "Killing in the Name" to Christmas number one at the expense of The X Factor winner Joe McElderry. [101] McElderry's single climbed to the top of the chart a week later.

In series 1–2, the winner's debut album would be released a few months after their victory in the show. The album would contain some new material but would consist largely of cover versions. This format changed with series 3 winner Leona Lewis. Cowell, Lewis's X Factor mentor and newly appointed manager, said: "We could have gone into the studio for a month, made the record quick, and thrown it out. It would have been the wrong thing to do." [102] The success of Lewis's debut album Spirit ensured that the debut albums of future series winners (such as series 4 winner Leon Jackson) would consist more of new material than of cover versions. Series 10 winner Sam Bailey, however, released her debut album of covers, The Power of Love , in March 2014, just three months after winning – the earliest ever debut album release by an X Factor winner.

Charity singles

During the fifth series of the show, the finalists released a cover of Mariah Carey's "Hero" in aid of Help for Heroes which reached number one in the UK singles charts. Following the success of the song, Cowell announced that a charity single would be released annually (though the process was discontinued in series 9). He is quoted as saying: "Following last year's record we made with the X Factor finalists in aid of Help for Heroes, we decided we wanted to do something annually on the show to help good causes." [103]

The 2009 finalists released a cover of Michael Jackson's "You Are Not Alone" which was released in aid of Great Ormond Street Hospital [103] and reached number one. [104]

The 2010 finalists released a cover of David Bowie's ""Heroes"", with proceeds once again going to the Help for Heroes charity. [105]

In 2011, the finalists released Rose Royce's "Wishing on a Star" and the proceeds were donated to Together for Short Lives. [106] This song features previous contestants JLS and One Direction. [107] In 2012, it was announced that the winner's single would also be the charity single. [108]

The charity single was scrapped after series 8, although the winner's singles from series 9 onwards were all released for charity.

(sales thresholds)
2008"Hero" [109] [110]
(X Factor Finalists 2008)
11 Help for Heroes
2009"You Are Not Alone"
(X Factor Finalists 2009)
11 Great Ormond Street Hospital
2010"Heroes" [112]
(X Factor Finalists 2010)
11Help for Heroes
2011"Wishing on a Star"
(X Factor Finalists 2011 featuring JLS and One Direction)
11 Together for Short Lives
(James Arthur – series 9 winner's single)
(Sam Bailey – series 10 winner's single)
11Together for Short Lives
Great Ormond Street Hospital
2014"Something I Need"
(Ben Haenow – series 11 winner's single)
12Together for Short Lives
2015"Forever Young"
(Louisa Johnson – series 12 winner's single)
2016"When Christmas Comes Around"
(Matt Terry – series 13 winner's single)
328Together for Short Lives
Shooting Star Chase
(Rak-Su featuring Wyclef Jean and Naughty Boy – series 14 winner's single)
2018"The Power of Love"
(Dalton Harris featuring James Arthur – series 15 winner's single)

The X Factor – The Greatest Hits

In celebration of the show's 10th series, The X Factor – The Greatest Hits was released on 25 November 2013. The album features 34 songs from 21 of the show's finalists. [113] [114] [115]

Disc 1 [116]
1."Bleeding Love (Radio Edit)" (Leona Lewis)Ryan Tedder3:58
2."What Makes You Beautiful" (One Direction)
  • Rami Yacoub
  • Carl Falk
3."Heart Skips a Beat" (Olly Murs featuring Rizzle Kicks)Jim Eliot3:22
4."Beat Again (Radio Edit)" (JLS)Steve Mac3:19
5."Wings" (Little Mix) TMS 3:40
6."Bad Boys" (Alexandra Burke featuring Flo Rida) The Phantom Boyz 3:26
7."Impossible" (James Arthur)
  • Graham Stack
  • Matt Furmidge
8."Nothing's Real but Love" (Rebecca Ferguson)
Eg White2:56
9."The Climb" (Joe McElderry)
Quiz & Larossi 3:36
10."When We Collide" (Matt Cardle)Simon Neil3:43
11."Once" (Diana Vickers)
Mike Spencer 3:05
12."You Bring Me Joy" (Amelia Lily)
Xenomania 3:51
13."No Promises" (Shayne Ward)
  • Jonas Schrøder
  • Lucas Sieber
14."Carry You" (Union J)
15."Do You Think of Me (Radio Edit)" (Misha B)
  • Misha B
  • Ben Kohn
  • Tom Barnes
  • Pete Kelleher
  • Ayak Thiik
16."Last Night (Beer Fear)" (Lucy Spraggan)Lucy Spraggan
17."Swagger Jagger" (Cher Lloyd)3:12
Disc 2
1."Troublemaker" (Olly Murs featuring Flo Rida)
Steve Robson3:03
2."Everybody in Love" (JLS)
  • J.R. Rotem
3."Little Things" (One Direction) Jake Gosling 3:39
4."Run (Single Mix)" (Leona Lewis)Steve Robson4:39
5."Cannonball" (Little Mix) Damien Rice
  • Richard "Biff" Stannard
  • Ash Howes
  • Steve Mac
6."Hallelujah" (Alexandra Burke) Leonard Cohen Quiz & Larossi3:39
7."You're Nobody 'til Somebody Loves You" (James Arthur)
  • James Arthur
  • Tom Barnes
  • Pete Kelleher
  • Ben Kohn
8."That's My Goal" (Shayne Ward)3:40
9."With Ur Love" (Cher Lloyd featuring Mike Posner)
10."Backtrack" (Rebecca Ferguson)
  • Jonny Lattimer
  • Tim Baxter
11."Seven Nation Army" (Marcus Collins) Jack White
  • Matt Furmidge
  • Alex Smith
  • Brian Rawling
12."Run for Your Life" (Matt Cardle) Gary Barlow Gary Barlow4:08
13."Home Run" (Misha B)
14."Lighthouse" (Lucy Spraggan)
  • Lucy Spraggan
  • Samuel Preston
  • James Flannigan
  • Samuel Preston
  • James Flannigan
15."Is This Love" (Aiden Grimshaw)
Jarrad Rogers3:25
16."Ambitions" (Joe McElderry)
17."Titanium" (Jahméne Douglas) 3:52

The X Factor Songbook

The X Factor Songbook is a 60-song compilation album released 24 November 2014. [117]

Disc 1
1."Make You Feel My Love" Adele 3:32
2."Listen" Beyoncé 3:39
3."Stay with Me" Sam Smith 2:52
4."All of Me" John Legend 2:59
5."Ghost" Ella Henderson 3:33
6."The A Team" Ed Sheeran 4:18
7."Story of My Life" (Radio Edit) One Direction 3:38
8."The One That Got Away" Katy Perry 3:46
9."Fight for This Love" Cheryl Cole 3:42
10."Just Give Me a Reason" Pink featuring Nate Ruess 4:02
11."I Will Never Let You Down" Rita Ora 3:23
12."All About That Bass" Meghan Trainor 3:07
13."Only Love Can Hurt Like This" Paloma Faith 3:52
14."Beneath Your Beautiful" Labrinth featuring Emeli Sandé 3:56
15."Fallin'" (Radio Edit) Alicia Keys 3:15
16."Say Something" A Great Big World 3:49
17."Change Your Life" (Single Mix) Little Mix 3:21
18."My Heart Will Go On" Celine Dion 5:08
19."I Didn't Know My Own Strength" Whitney Houston 3:39
20."Run" (Single Mix) Leona Lewis 4:40
Disc 2
1."Home" Michael Bublé 3:46
2."Angels" Robbie Williams 4:20
3."Dance with Me Tonight" Olly Murs 3:22
4."Locked Out of Heaven" Bruno Mars 3:52
5."Hall of Fame" The Script featuring 3:21
6."Moves Like Jagger" Maroon 5 featuring Christina Aguilera 3:21
7."She Makes Me Wanna" JLS featuring Dev 3:39
8."I Want You Back" Melanie B featuring Missy Elliott 3:26
9."Bad Boys" Alexandra Burke featuring Flo Rida 3:26
10."A Moment Like This" Kelly Clarkson 3:46
11."Your Song" Ellie Goulding 3:08
12."Nothing's Real but Love" Rebecca Ferguson 2:51
13."Skyscraper" Demi Lovato 3:39
14."Angel" Sarah McLachlan 4:00
15."Un-Break My Heart" Toni Braxton 4:05
16."A Thousand Years" Christina Perri 3:58
17."Impossible" Shontelle 3:46
18."Valerie" Mark Ronson featuring Amy Winehouse 3:36
19."Hey, Soul Sister" Train 3:36
20."Rude" Magic! 3:45
Disc 3
1."Back for Good" Take That 4:02
2."Read All About It, Pt. III" Emeli Sandé 4:43
3."Back to Black" (Radio Edit) Amy Winehouse 3:12
4."Leave Right Now" Will Young 3:30
5."Beautiful" Christina Aguilera 3:59
6."The Climb" Miley Cyrus 3:51
7."I Believe I Can Fly" R. Kelly 3:15
8."I Can't Make You Love Me" George Michael 5:20
9."Dance with My Father" (Radio Version) Luther Vandross 4:25
10."Flying Without Wings" Westlife 3:34
11."All by Myself" (Remastered) Eric Carmen 4:31
12."Eternal Flame" The Bangles 3:55
13."Whenever, Wherever" Shakira 3:16
14."Torn" Natalie Imbruglia 4:04
15."How You Remind Me" Nickelback 3:41
16."Don't Stop Believin'" Journey 4:10
17."Wherever You Will Go" The Calling 3:27
18."How to Save a Life" (Single Mix) The Fray 3:59
19."Many of Horror" Biffy Clyro 4:17
20."Hallelujah" Jeff Buckley 4:17



The X Factor brand has also appeared on clothing, jewellery, [121] perfume, make-up, toiletries, [122] bedding, gifts, confectionery, [123] soft drinks [124] and pizzas. [125]


While The X Factor had attracted a large degree of mass appeal from among the British public, become a synonymous part of Saturday night television, [126] [127] after its peak in 2010, viewing figures declined by more than 50% over the next decade, with its final series aired in 2018. [128] Although the programme was put into hiatus by Cowell in 2019, to give the format a break and determine how best to proceed with it, this hiatus continued on throughout 2020, until ITV formally announced in July 2021 that it had 'no current plans' for another series. At the time of its cancellation, the programme's overall format and presentation was described as having gone 'slightly stale' towards the end, [129] with no major appeal to television audience. [130]

Related Research Articles

Louis Walsh Irish manager in the music industry

Michael Louis Vincent Walsh is an Irish music manager and television personality. He has managed Johnny Logan, Boyzone, Jedward and Westlife, four of Ireland's most successful pop acts in the 1990s and 2000s. He later began a career as a talent judge on shows such as Popstars (2001–2002), You're a Star (2003–2004), The X Factor, Ireland's Got Talent (2018–2019) and Junk Kouture (2014-present).

The X Factor is a British television music competition to find new singing talent; the winner of which receives a £1 million recording contract with the Syco Music record label. The first series was broadcast from 4 September to 11 December 2004. The competition was split into several stages: auditions, bootcamp, judges' homes and live shows, with Louis Walsh, Sharon Osbourne and Simon Cowell as judges. Kate Thornton presented the show on ITV, whilst Ben Shephard presented the spin-off show The Xtra Factor on ITV2.

<i>The X Factor</i> (British series 2) British TV competition

The X Factor is a British television music competition to find new singing talent. The second series ran from 20 August to 17 December 2005. Shayne Ward became the winner and Louis Walsh emerged as the winning mentor. The second series was longer than the first, with seven acts in each of the three categories going to the judges' homes, and 12 acts in the finals instead of 9. Kate Thornton returned as presenter of the main show on ITV and Ben Shepherd presented the spin-off show The Xtra Factor on ITV2, while Simon Cowell, Sharon Osbourne and Walsh returned as judges. 75,000 people auditioned for the series.

<i>The X Factor</i> (British series 3) British TV series

The X Factor is a British television music competition to find new singing talent. The third series was broadcast on ITV from 19 August 2006 until 16 December 2006. Louis Walsh, Sharon Osbourne and Simon Cowell all returned for their third series on the judging panel. Kate Thornton returned to present the main show on ITV, while Ben Shephard returned to present spin-off show The Xtra Factor on ITV2. After the semi-final on 9 December, Cowell became the winning judge even though the series had not yet finished, as two of his acts, Ray Quinn and Leona Lewis, became the two finalists. Lewis won the series on 16 December, with Quinn finishing as runner-up.

<i>Britains Got Talent</i> Televised British talent competition

Britain's Got Talent is a televised British talent show competition, and part of the global Got Talent franchise created by Simon Cowell. Presented by Anthony McPartlin and Declan Donnelly, it is produced by both Thames and Syco Entertainment, distributed by Fremantle, and broadcast on ITV every year in late Spring to early Summer. The show was originally intended for production in 2005, but filming was suspended in the wake of a dispute between ITV and the programme's originally planned host. Following the success of America's Got Talent that year, production resumed and the programme eventually premiered on 9 June 2007.

<i>The X Factor</i> (British series 4) British TV series

The X Factor is a British television music competition to find new singing talent. The fourth series was broadcast on ITV from 18 August 2007 and was won by Leon Jackson on 15 December 2007, with Rhydian Roberts finishing as the runner-up and Dannii Minogue emerging as the winning mentor. Dermot O'Leary presented for the first time, replacing Kate Thornton, who had been presenting the show since series 1 in 2004. Fearne Cotton replaced Ben Shephard as presenter on the spin-off show The Xtra Factor. The original judging panel consisted of Simon Cowell, Sharon Osbourne, Brian Friedman and Minogue. Friedman left the panel halfway through the first audition episode and was replaced by former judge Louis Walsh.

<i>The X Factor</i> (British series 5) British TV series

The X Factor is a British television music competition to find new singing talent. The fifth series was broadcast on ITV from 16 August 2008 until 13 December 2008. Dermot O'Leary returned to present the main show on ITV, while Fearne Cotton was replaced by Holly Willoughby as presenter of spin-off show The Xtra Factor on ITV2. Simon Cowell, Louis Walsh, and Dannii Minogue returned to the judging panel. Sharon Osbourne left after four series and was replaced by Cheryl Cole. The series was won by Alexandra Burke, with Cole emerging as the winning mentor. Auditions in front of producers were held in April and May, with callbacks in front of the judges in June. The number of applicants for series 5 reached an all-time high with a reported 182,000 people auditioning. A number of well-established music acts from around the world, such as Beyoncé, Mariah Carey, Britney Spears, Girls Aloud, Take That, Il Divo, and series 3 winner Leona Lewis, performed during the live stages of the show.

<i>The X Factor</i> (British series 6) British TV series

The X Factor is a British television music competition to find new singing talent. The sixth series started on ITV on 22 August 2009 and was won by Joe McElderry on 13 December 2009. Cheryl Cole emerged as the winning mentor for the second consecutive year, the first time in the show's history that a mentor has won back-to-back series. The show was presented by Dermot O'Leary, with spin-off show The Xtra Factor presented by Holly Willoughby on ITV2. McElderry's winner's single was a cover version of Miley Cyrus's "The Climb". Public auditions by aspiring singers began in June 2009 and were held in five cities across the UK. Simon Cowell, Louis Walsh, Dannii Minogue and Cole returned as judges. This season was the first to be sponsored by TalkTalk after they took over the sponsorship from The Carphone Warehouse. For the first time, auditions were held in front of a live audience. Following initial auditions, the "bootcamp" stage took place in August 2009, where the number of contestants was narrowed down to 24. The 24 contestants were split into their categories, Boys, Girls, Over 25s and Groups, and given a judge to mentor them at the "judges' houses" stage and throughout the finals.

<i>The X Factor</i> (British series 7) Season of television series

The X Factor is a British television music competition to find new singing talent. The seventh series started on ITV on 21 August 2010 and ended on 12 December 2010. The series saw the creation of the boy band One Direction, from boys who entered the competition as individuals. The winner of the competition was Matt Cardle. Cardle was mentored throughout the show by Dannii Minogue. After the victory, he released his debut single "When We Collide". A total of 15,448,019 votes were cast throughout the series. It was presented by Dermot O'Leary, with spin-off show The Xtra Factor presented by Konnie Huq on ITV2, who took over from Holly Willoughby.

<i>The X Factor</i> (British series 8) British TV competition

The X Factor is a British television music competition to find new singing talent. The eighth series commenced airing on ITV on 20 August 2011 and ended on 11 December 2011. The winner was Little Mix, a four-piece girlband known earlier in the series as Rhythmix, consisting of members Perrie Edwards, Leigh-Anne Pinnock, Jade Thirlwall, and formerly Jesy Nelson. They entered the competition as soloist, and later put together as a group. They became the first act in the groups category to win in the UK show's history with new judge Tulisa emerging as their winning mentor. Dermot O'Leary presented the main show on ITV, while Caroline Flack and series 6 runner-up Olly Murs co-presented the spin-off show The Xtra Factor on ITV2, replacing Konnie Huq from the previous year. Louis Walsh returned to the judging panel and was joined by Gary Barlow, Kelly Rowland and Tulisa. Barlow, Rowland and Tulisa joined the panel as replacements for former judges, Simon Cowell, Dannii Minogue and Cheryl Cole. Series 5 winner Alexandra Burke served as a guest judge for week 4 of the live shows due to Rowland having a throat infection.

The X Factor in the UK has been subject to much controversy and criticism since its launch in 2004. This has included allegations of conflict of interest, voting irregularities and overcharging, product placement for sponsors, staging scenes, use of pitch correction technology, and exploiting vulnerable contestants. The series has also been criticised for developing singers as marketable products rather than creative individuals. As of April 2020, there have been fifteen completed series broadcast on the ITV network, as well as spin-offs The X Factor: Celebrity (2019) and The X Factor: The Band (2019).

<i>The X Factor</i> (British series 9) British TV competition

The X Factor is a British television music competition to find new singing talent. The ninth series began airing on ITV on 18 August 2012 and ended on 9 December 2012. Dermot O'Leary returned as presenter of the main show on ITV, whilst Caroline Flack and Olly Murs returned to co-present The Xtra Factor on ITV2. Louis Walsh, Gary Barlow and Tulisa returned as judges. Nicole Scherzinger was confirmed as the fourth permanent judge after Geri Halliwell, Leona Lewis, Rita Ora, Mel B, Anastacia and Scherzinger herself stood in as guest judges for the vacant position left by Kelly Rowland. After the show of 8 December, two of Scherzinger's acts, James Arthur and Jahméne Douglas, became the top two, meaning that Scherzinger was guaranteed to win. Arthur was announced as the winner on 9 December, and released a cover of Shontelle's "Impossible" as his winner's song. As of 2016, it is the most successful winner's single in the show's history.

The X Factor is a British television music competition to find new singing talent. The tenth series began airing on ITV on 31 August, and finished on 15 December 2013. Dermot O'Leary returned to present the main show on ITV and Caroline Flack was back to present spin-off show The Xtra Factor on ITV2, along with comedian Matt Richardson, who replaced Olly Murs. Flack also presented backstage segments during the live shows. Louis Walsh, Gary Barlow and Nicole Scherzinger returned as judges for their respective tenth, third and second series, with Sharon Osbourne returning to replace Tulisa after five series away. This was Barlow's final series as a judge. Osbourne and Scherzinger also departed the series, but reprised their roles as judges with Walsh again in series 13 and series 14.

<i>The X Factor</i> (British series 11) British TV competition

The X Factor is a British television music competition to find new singing talent. The eleventh series began airing on ITV on 30 August 2014 and finished on 14 December 2014. Dermot O'Leary presented his eighth series of the main show on ITV and Sarah-Jane Crawford presented spin-off show The Xtra Factor on ITV2, replacing Caroline Flack and Matt Richardson. Louis Walsh was the only judge from series 10 to return and was joined by former judges Cheryl Fernandez-Versini, Simon Cowell, and new judge Mel B, who replaced Sharon Osbourne, Gary Barlow and Nicole Scherzinger. Former judge Tulisa returned as a guest judge for the final on 13 December due to Mel B being ill. The series also saw the lower age limit decreased from 16 to 14, as it was in series 4 and 5. This was Walsh's final series as a judge before returning in series 13. It was O'Leary's final series as presenter on the main show, as he announced on 27 March 2015 that he was leaving to pursue other projects, before returning in series 13. On 11 May, Crawford also confirmed via Twitter that she would leave her position as The Xtra Factor presenter.

<i>The X Factor</i> (British series 12) British TV competition

The X Factor is a British television music competition to find new singing talent. The twelfth series began airing on ITV on 29 August 2015 and ended on 13 December 2015. The judges were Simon Cowell, Cheryl Fernandez-Versini, who returned for their respective ninth and fifth series as judges, series 9 guest judge and former The Voice UK coach Rita Ora, and BBC Radio 1 DJ Nick Grimshaw, with Grimshaw and Ora replacing Louis Walsh, the only judge who had been on the show from its inception in 2004, and Mel B. It was presented by the late Caroline Flack and Olly Murs, who had both previously co-presented spin-off show The Xtra Factor on ITV2 and replaced Dermot O'Leary, who left after eight series. Rochelle Humes and Melvin Odoom presented The Xtra Factor, replacing Sarah-Jane Crawford. Louisa Johnson was announced as the winner on 13 December 2015, making Ora the winning mentor.

The X Factor is a British television music competition to find new singing talent. The thirteenth series began airing on ITV on Saturday 27 August 2016 and ended on Sunday 11 December 2016. Dermot O'Leary returned to present the main show on ITV for the ninth time to replace Olly Murs and Caroline Flack, who left after series 12. Simon Cowell was the only judge from the 12th series to return; Nicole Scherzinger, Sharon Osbourne and Louis Walsh all returned, replacing Rita Ora, Cheryl Fernandez-Versini and Nick Grimshaw. Matt Edmondson and Rylan Clark-Neal replaced Rochelle Humes and Melvin Odoom as hosts of The Xtra Factor, which was rebranded as The Xtra Factor Live and was broadcast live twice every week, with Roman Kemp making appearances as a digital presenter and social media reporter. Matt Terry was announced the winner on 11 December 2016, making Scherzinger the winning mentor for the second time. Saara Aalto finished second.

The X Factor is a British television music competition to find new singing talent. The fourteenth series began airing on ITV on 2 September 2017, presented by Dermot O'Leary. For the first time in seven years, the judging panel remained the same as the previous series, with Simon Cowell, Sharon Osbourne, Nicole Scherzinger and Louis Walsh returning. This is the first series not to include companion show The Xtra Factor, after it was cancelled in January 2017. Its replacement is a programme called Xtra Bites presented by Becca Dudley on the ITV Hub. This is also the first series to be sponsored by Just Eat, with the show having been sponsored by TalkTalk since 2009, as well as the second time the show has premiered in September, rather than August, since the first series in 2004. Rak-Su won the competition on 3 December 2017 and they became the second group to win the competition and Simon Cowell became the winning mentor for the fourth time.

The fifteenth and final series of the British television music competition The X Factor began airing on ITV on 1 September 2018, presented by Dermot O'Leary. Simon Cowell returned alongside new judges Louis Tomlinson, Ayda Field, and Robbie Williams who replace departing judges Nicole Scherzinger, Sharon Osbourne, and Louis Walsh. Nile Rodgers filled in for Williams while he was away on his tour for weeks 3–5 of the live shows. On 2 December, Jamaican-born singer Dalton Harris won the series making him the first and only foreign contender to win the UK show. This was the only series that featured Tomlinson, Field, and Williams as judges.

<i>The X Factor: Celebrity</i> Celebrity edition of The X Factor

The X Factor: Celebrity is a British celebrity special edition of The X Factor which premiered on 12 October 2019 on ITV. It is a revamped version of the 2006 celebrity format The X Factor: Battle of the Stars. Simon Cowell, Nicole Scherzinger and Louis Walsh judged this series, with Dermot O'Leary presenting the series and Vick Hope hosting Xtra Bites on YouTube.

<i>The X Factor: The Band</i> British television series

The X Factor: The Band is a special edition of British reality talent competition The X Factor, which premiered on 9 December 2019 on ITV. The format for the series was announced on 4 November 2019 as a last-minute replacement for a planned All Stars spin-off series, which was originally supposed to air following The X Factor: Celebrity in late 2019. The format is an accelerated version of The X Factor whereby solo artists auditioned in front of Simon Cowell and Nicole Scherzinger to try to win a place in a boyband or girlband. The new bands would then compete for a chance to join Cowell's record label and launch their careers.


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