The X Factor (UK)

The X Factor (UK)

Infobox Television
show_name = The X Factor

size =
caption = "The X Factor" current logo (2006 – present)
format = Talent show
creator = Simon Cowell
presenter = Main show: Dermot O'Leary The Xtra Factor: Holly Willoughby
judges = Simon Cowell Dannii Minogue Louis Walsh Cheryl Cole
voices = Peter Dickson, Enn Reitel
country = UK
language = English
network = ITV ("The X Factor") ITV2 ("The Xtra Factor")
first_aired = 4 September, 2004
last_aired = present
(renewed until December 2010) [citenews|url=,,11050-2006580460,00.html|title=£20m Si scoops highest TV deal|publisher="The Sun"|date=18 December 2006|accessdate=2007-12-24]
runtime = 60 – 120 minutes
num_episodes = 15 (Series 1)
18 (Series 2)
18 (Series 3)
17 (Series 4)
TBA (Series 5)
num_series = 4 (plus 1 celebrity series)
producer = talkbackTHAMES (part of FremantleMedia),
website =

:"For versions in other countries, see The X Factor (TV series)."

"The X Factor" is a British television music talent show contested by aspiring pop singers drawn from public auditions. It is broadcast on Saturdays on the ITV Network in the UK and on TV3 in the Republic of Ireland, with spin-off "behind-the-scenes" shows "The Xtra Factor" and "The X Factor 24/7" screened on ITV2 and TV3. It is produced by FremantleMedia's talkbackTHAMES and Simon Cowell's production company SYCOtv. The "X Factor" of the title refers to the undefinable "something" that makes for star quality.

"The X Factor" is the biggest television talent competition in Europe, with 182,000 auditioning for series 5.citenews|url=|title=The auditions begin...|publisher=The X Factor|date=20 August 2007|accessdate=2007-08-21] The prize is a £1,000,000 (sterling) recording contract (in addition to the publicity that appearance in the later stages of the show itself generates, not only for the winner but also for other highly ranked contestants). The show has proved hugely popular with audiences, with the series 4 final attracting 12.7 million viewers (approximately a 55% share). There have been four winners to date: Steve Brookstein (although he has since been dropped by Simon Cowell's record label after they fell out), Shayne Ward, Leona Lewis and Leon Jackson respectively. The winner's first single is usually released around the Christmas season, in an effort to become the UK's Christmas number one single. As of series 4, each winner's single has entered the UK Singles Chart at number one, three of them being number one at Christmas (see music releases by "X Factor" contestants).

"The X Factor" was devised as a replacement for the massively successful "Pop Idol", which was put on indefinite hiatus after its second series, largely because Simon Cowell wished to launch a show that he owned the television rights to. (The perceived similarity between the shows later became the subject of a legal dispute.)

Versions of "The X Factor" have also appeared in a number of other countries. The show has become a major success throughout the world, most notably in Denmark, Spain and Colombia. Creator Simon Cowell stated on the first episode of series 4 that "this is the biggest singing competition in Europe."


:"For detailed information see the Series 1, Series 2, Series 3, Series 4 and Series 5 articles."

The first series of "The X Factor" began in September 2004 and ran to December 2004. It was hugely popular and a second series ran from August to December 2005 . A celebrity special edition "" was shown from May to June 2006. The third series, sponsored by mobile phone manufacturer Nokia, aired from 19 August 2006 and concluded on 16 December 2006. "The X Factor" producers and creator/judge Simon Cowell subsequently cancelled the show's contract with Nokia, and on June 19, 2007 it was confirmed that mobile phone retailer and ex-"Big Brother" sponsor The Carphone Warehouse would sponsor series 4. Series 4 began broadcasting on 18 August 2007 [citenews|url=|title=Britain's best TV listings, storylines, news and video from soaps like EastEnders|publisher=What's On TV|date=31 July 2007|accessdate=2007-07-31] and the show has been given another three year contract with ITV, so should run at least until series 7 in 2010.


The show is primarily concerned with identifying singing talent, though appearance, personality, stage presence and dance routines are also an important element of many performances. Some acts also accompany themselves on guitar or piano, though almost always over a backing track. The single most important attribute that the judges are seeking, however, is the ability to appeal to a mass market of pop fans.

For series 1–3 the competition was split into three categories: solo singers aged 16–24, solo singers aged 25 and over, and vocal groups (including duos). In series 4, the age limit was lowered from 16 to 14, creating a 14–24 age group. This was split into separate male and female sections, [citenews|url=|title=Dannii Minogue 2007 interview|publisher=YouTube RELEVANT SECTION FROM 3:08|date=16 August 2007|accessdate=2007-08-17] making four categories in all: 14–24 males ("boys"), 14–24 females ("girls"), 25-and-overs, and groups.

There are five stages to "The X Factor" competition:
*Stage 1: Producers' auditions (these auditions decide who will sing in front of the judges)
*Stage 2: Judges' auditions
*Stage 3: Boot camp
*Stage 4: Visits to judges' houses
*Stage 5: Live shows (finals)


A round of first auditions are held in front of producers months before the show is aired, either by application and appointment, or at "open" auditions that anyone can attend. These auditions, held at various venues around the UK, attract very large crowds. The auditions themselves are not televised, but shots of crowds waving and "judges' cars" arriving are filmed and later spliced in with the televised auditions shot later in the year. Contestants are told to remove winter clothing so that the crowd shots will be consistent with the summer scenes seen in the sequences filmed later.Fact|date=April 2008 Selected candidates (approximately 140 per 9000)Fact|date=April 2008 are then invited back to one or more further auditions in front of the producers, and, if successful, finally called back to audition in front of the judges.

A selection of the auditions in front of the judges – usually the best, the worst and the most bizarre (described by judge Louis Walsh as "the good, the bad and the ugly" [ [ "Walsh's charm factor"] , "Whitby Gazette", 30 October 2007] ) – are broadcast over the first few weeks of the show. Each act enters the audition room, often after waiting for hours, and delivers a stand-up unaccompanied performance of their chosen song to the judges. If a majority of the judges (two in series 1–3 or three in series 4) say "yes" then the act goes through to the next stage, otherwise the act is sent home. Much like "Pop Idol", many acts face harsh criticism from the judges, especially from the controversial Simon Cowell.

Over 50,000 people auditioned for series 1 of "The X Factor", around 75,000 for series 2 and around 100,000 for series 3. The number of applicants for series 4 reached an all-time high with 200,000 people auditioning. [citenews|url= |title=All change as The X Factor returns|publisher=BBC News|date=17 August 2007|accessdate=2007-08-18] [citenews|url=|title=Wannabes line up for X Factor auditions|publisher=Daily Mail|date=17 August 2007|accessdate=2007-08-18] [citenews|url=|title=150,000 wannabes apply for X Factor|publisher=thelondonpaper|date=18 August 2007|accessdate=2007-08-18] Over 182,000 people auditioned for series 5.

Bootcamp and visits to judges' houses

The contestants selected at audition are further refined through a series of performances at "bootcamp" (held at a venue such as a country hotel), and then at the "judges' houses", until a small number eventually progress to the live finals (nine in series 1 and twelve in series 2–4). Judge Louis Walsh revealed in November 2007 that the houses the contestants visit do not actually belong to the judges, but are rented for the purpose. [ [ "Walsh's X Factor house 'not his'"] , BBC News, 11 October 2007]

During these stages, each of the judges is allocated a category to mentor. In early series this allocation took place after completion of the auditions and prior to bootcamp, but from series 4 all four judges have worked together at the bootcamp. They collectively choose 24 acts (6 from each category) for the next round, and only then find out which category they are to mentor. The judges then disband for the "visits to the judges' houses" round, where their six acts are reduced to three for the live shows. [citenews|url=|title=The X Factor - About the show|publisher=The X Factor|date=17 August 2007|accessdate=2007-08-17] [citenews|url=|title=Cowell: 'X Factor' judges are out of sync'|publisher=Digital Spy|date=16 August 2007|accessdate=2007-08-16]

Live shows

The finals consist of a series of two live shows each Saturday evening, usually with one act eliminated each week. In the first few weeks of the finals, each act performs once in the first show in front of an auditorium audience and the judges. Acts usually sing over a pre-recorded backing track, though sometimes live musicians, backing singers and/or dancers are featured.

In the first two series acts usually chose a cover of a pop standard or contemporary hit. In the third series an innovation was introduced whereby each live show had a different theme (for example, Motown), thus increasing the show's similarity to the "Pop Idol" format. This format continued during the most recent fourth series. The contestants' songs are chosen according to the theme, and a celebrity guest connected to the theme is invited onto the show. Clips are shown of the guest conversing with the contestants at rehearsal, and the guest also performs in the later results show, immediately before the results are announced. (See the series 3 and series 4 articles for a full list of themes and guests.) In series 1, much was made of the idea that each performer/mentor combination was free to present the performance however they wanted, including the performer playing live instruments, or the addition of choirs, backing bands, and dancers. Future series placed much less emphasis on this element.

After each act has performed, the judges comment on their performance, usually focusing on vocal ability and stage presence. Once all the acts have appeared, the phone lines open and the viewing public vote on which act they want to keep.

In the results show, screened an hour or so later, the two acts polling the fewest votes are revealed. Both these acts perform their song again in a "final showdown", and the judges vote on which of the two to send home. Ties became possible with the introduction of a fourth judge in series 4. In the event of a tie the show goes to deadlock, and the act who came last in the public vote is sent home. The actual number of votes cast for each act is not revealed, nor even the order (this is presumably to maintain interest in the event that there might be a clear winner from an early stage). In series 3, a twist was introduced in one of the live shows where the act with the fewest votes was automatically eliminated, and the two with the next fewest votes performed in the "final showdown" as normal.

Once the number of contestants has been reduced to four (series 1) or five (series 2–4), the format changes. Each act performs twice in the first show, with the public vote opening after the first performance. The second show reveals which act polled the fewest votes, and they are automatically eliminated from the competition (the judges do not have a vote; their only role is to comment on the performances). In series 1 the acts also reprised one of their songs in the second show.

This continues until only two (series 1 and 3) or three (series 2 and 4) acts remain. These acts go on to appear in the grand final which decides the overall winner by public vote. In past series some of the failed auditionees from the early rounds have also returned for a special appearance in the final.

Post "X Factor"

In series 1–3, the premise of "The X Factor" was that the winner would be managed in the industry by their mentor on the show. With music executive Cowell and managers Osbourne and Walsh as judges/mentors, any of the three would be qualified to do so. Following the appointment of singer Dannii Minogue as a judge in series 4, the same principle could not universally apply. In fact, when Minogue won series 4 with Leon Jackson, a new, outside manager was appointed. It is still believed that if Cowell or Walsh wins a future series then they are entitled to manage their act in the industry.

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. Simon 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." [cite news|title=Cowell defends Lewis' chart absence|url=|publisher=Digital Spy|date=16 August 2007|accessdate=2007-08-22] The success of Lewis' debut album "Spirit" ensured that the debut albums of future series winners (with Jackson as an example) would consist more of new material than of cover versions.

Judges and presenters

From series 1 to 3, "The X Factor" judges were Simon Cowell, Sharon Osbourne and Louis Walsh.

After some months of speculation and provisional lineup changes (see series 4 article), the series 4 judges were finally confirmed in June 2007 as Simon Cowell, Sharon Osbourne, Louis Walsh and Dannii Minogue, with Brian Friedman taking a role as performance coach and choreographer.

Speculation also surrounded judging lineup changes for series 5, centring on whether or not Sharon Osbourne would return. On 6 June 2008 (six days before filming for series 5 was due to begin), ITV confirmed that Osbourne had left the show, [citenews|url=|title=Sharon leaves The X Factor|publisher="ITV"|date=6 June 2008|accessdate=2008-06-06] and Girls Aloud singer Cheryl Cole was confirmed as her replacement four days later. [citenews|url=|title=Cheryl joins The X Factor|publisher="ITV"|date=10 June 2008|accessdate=2008-06-10] [cite web|url=|title=Cheryl is the new judge!|publisher="ITV"|date=10 June 2008|accessdate=2008-06-10]

The show was hosted up to series 3 by Kate Thornton. Thornton was replaced for series 4 by Dermot O'Leary who signed a contract worth £1 million to present two series of the programme on ITV. O'Leary was not forced to leave the "Big Brother" franchise and continued to present "Big Brother" sister shows during summer 2007. However, Dermot announced that "" was to be his last "Big Brother" hosting role so he can focus on presenting "The X Factor".

Voice-overs are provided by Peter Dickson and Enn Reitel.

For information about "The Xtra Factor" presenters, see "The Xtra Factor" below.

Judges' categories


:colorbox|#BFFFC0; – Winning Judge/Category:colorbox|#FFC0CB; – Defunt Judge:colorbox|#ABCDEF; – Current Judge

A comprehensive list of other "X Factor" alumni album sales reflects the fact that commercial success can be achieved through association with "The X Factor" and with post-"X-Factor" promotion, although the degree of success varies considerably (this list only includes contestants who have no certified albums, and again does not include pre-"X-Factor" recordings):


External links

*|id=xfactor|title="The X Factor"
* [ "X Factor Community"] The Number 1 X Factor Community!
* [ "The X Factor"] Official MySpace page
*imdb title|id=0423776|title=The X Factor
* [ "The X Factor"] at
* [ "The X Factor 2008 - The latest X Factor Downloads, News and Gossip Daily"] at
* [ "The X Factor - Show News & Gossip"] at
* [ "The X Factor"] at Unreality TV
* [ "The X Factor Gifts"] Official Gift Shop

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