Radio and TV Talk

Rodney Ho covers TV and radio, from Atlanta’s stations to the hottest “American Idol" news.

Why was 'The X Factor" a failure?

Fox officially killed off "The X Factor" yesterday, a death that was inevitable after ratings tumbled season three to a level that clearly made it more a burden on the schedule than a benefit.

Creator Simon Cowell is going back to the U.K. 12 years after "American Idol" turned him into a household name here. He left "Idol" after season 9 to pursue his own "X Factor" dreams here. And it failed. He'll go back to his more successful British version of "X Factor" and lick his wounds.

What went wrong?

Bottom lines: "X Factor" couldn't outdo "Idol." It failed to provide a viable alternative to "Idol" the way "The Voice" has. And Cowell couldn't get out of the shadow of his own rude but honest role on "Idol," a persona that grew stale for many viewers after a more than a decade.

It also didn't make sense for Fox to have two shows with such similar pedigree without the two shows inevitably cannibalizing (as opposed to enhancing) each other. Sure, they were on at different times of the year but that didn't matter in the end.

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And while Cowell was able to give away $1 million, that $1 million didn't create the next One Direction or even Leona Lewis or Olly Murs, British "X Factor" stars who crossed over to the States. The U.S. "X Factor" acts to date have made modest impacts (Emblem3, Chris Rene, Fifth Harmony), but nobody has been a breakout winner. Heck, season one winner Melanie Amaro hasn't even gotten an album out.

Season one, when more people were willing to give the show a chance, set the tone with an awful, robotic host and overly produced set pieces. And despite the reuniting of Paula Abdul and Cowell, the panel just didn't quite gel. And bringing in Britney Spears season two didn't help matters. She was vacant. While Demi Lovato was a better-than-average judge, she alone couldn't give the show the cachet it needed to take eyeballs away from "Idol" and "The Voice."

By the time season 3 arrived last fall, I had too many other shows on my plate to pay it even a whit of attention. And based on press coverage (or the lack thereof), not many others did either. Ratings fell below 5 million and the 18-49 shares below 1.5. In other words, "The X Factor" was pulling in less than half the audience of an already shrunken "American Idol."

Cowell never had an ownership share in 'Idol." He wanted his own baby here. He negotiated a way to get "The X Factor" stateside. But he could never escape "Idol's" huge shadow. It must have frustrated the bejesus out of him considering the fact "Idol" got progressively weaker while "The X Factor" was around.

So will we ever see Cowell again? He will certainly try. But it can't be yet another singing talent show. We have enough of those, thank you very much.

On the bright side, I've heard good things about season 3 winner Alex & Sierra!

About the Author

Rodney Ho covers radio and television for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

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