The X Factor has always been a hugely popular show on ITV, particularly in the leadup to Christmas. It’s famously been a festive family favourite, provided Christmas number one singles and drawn a lot of advertising spend at a key time in the retail calendar.
However, the show has slowly been changing and an X Factor contestant hasn’t topped the charts on December 25th since 2014 (when Ben Haenow scored a seasonal hit). The X Factor ratings have been dropping from the peak of 14.13 million in 2010, and as Strictly was slowly taking over, they had to do something drastic to make a change. While the audience may be dropping, it is still the most watched Saturday night TV show for 16 to 34-year-olds. In order to make it an even bigger hit, the bosses took on a new challenge.
As talent mogul Simon Cowell embraces the change, there has needed to be an adaptation over the TV show – and this year, it’s a big one.
Love it or loathe it, The X Factor as we know it is no more. We’ve now been introduced to X Factor: Celebrity and, for the first time, the big bosses at ITV have allowed celebrities to take part in the series and closed it off to the public. But will the popularity of the contestants mean more than their talent?
For digital marketers - with a keen eye on popular trends, the science behind audience building and the power of social media – there’s much to explore with this new X Factor incarnation.
There’s much to suggest that Simon Cowell and the ITV bosses has come up with a cleverly curated line-up - a selection of 12 celebrities with different characters to cater for every audience. With sports stars, TV personalities and actors making an appearance on the new show.
While the show bosses have been clever to cover all audiences – and bring in newer, younger viewers – if the public can vote for free on the app, it’s likely the show already has a winner decided.
We're predicting that the Love Island supergroup already has their record deal with Simon Cowell in the bag!
Looking at other reality shows where celebrities have competed against others, there have always been certain stars who have managed to do better than their fellow celebs. Unsurprisingly, reality stars with a large following often torpedo their rivals - their follower count being a contributing factor.
For example, Geordie Shore star Charlotte Crosby won Celebrity Big Brother in 2013, and her co-star Vicky Pattison won I’m A Celeb in 2015. Charlotte’s followers were constantly ensuring her safety in the house, and with 6.9 million of them, it’s no surprise she received floods of support. Meanwhile, Vicky had 4.4 million followers take her safely through to the final, landing her the Queen of the Jungle title.
So, what’s it looking like for our new X Factor celebrities? If this show follows the same formula, it’s looking like Love Island’s supergroup is going to land themselves a record deal.
After landing themselves a spot on the biggest ITV2 show in years, the group of four ex-Islanders can rely on their existing audience for support. Wes Nelson, Samira Mighty, Eyal Booker and Zara McDermott have a combined following of 4.8 million – more than anyone else on the show.
With the public voting for them week on week, it’s likely their followers will power together to ensure success, which has never happened in X Factor history. Usually, people will gain followers throughout the series as they gain popularity. With their large following, it’s looking like the group aren’t giving anyone else a chance. As any loyal X Factor fans know, votes are essential – and the Love Island group are likely to have the support of their following throughout.
While the Love Island supergroup is likely to get all the way to the final thanks to their following, they’re closely followed behind by Megan McKenna. The former TOWIE, CBB and Ex On The Beach star has been building her follower count for years and her loyal fans have continued following her attempt to break into the music industry. She’s been performing in Nashville to build her experience singing country music, but she wants to break the UK.
However, one thing that could give Megan a strong place in the series is her vengeance against Simon Cowell. Acts who have previously been snubbed from the series have gone on to be incredibly successful. Liam Payne, Scarlett Lee, Gifty Louise and Emily Middlemas all auditioned twice before finding themselves in the live shows – and Megan has attempted to get on the show before.
Looking at history, Megan’s attempt to go on the series multiple times is going to send her soaring through the live shows, so she could be on her way to landing a record deal. In fact, it turns out Megan auditioned for the show in both 2014 and 2015, before she found fame on reality shows. It’s likely that Megan is going to go far in the series.
Max and Harvey are also top contenders, with one million followers on their joint Instagram account. While they have substantially fewer followers than Megan, their audience is growing from the younger demographic. There is an opportunity for Max and Harvey to take advantage of their reign on the app TikTok. The duo record videos for a living, and with the rise of YouTube and TikTok, it’s not surprising they’re a top contender for the show. Not only are they already confident in front of the camera, but this proves there is an additional demographic to launch stars into. The X Factor was previously a family show, and it’s likely if young people are going back to watching it with their parents, they’ll be begging to vote for the duo.
The X Factor’s turn towards celebrities that are relevant for the younger generation looks smart and follows exactly the same rationale as brands working with influencers.
When it comes to followers, it looks like Martin Bashir has drawn the short straw. The journalist may be famous in the industry, but it seems he’s losing out when it comes to social following. The singer only has 1.7k followers on Instagram – but he’s shot up since he stepped onto the stage. Prior to his debut, his follower count was sitting at 200, so he’s gained a whopping 1.5k followers in a matter of days. That, if nothing else, shows the power of The X Factor effect.
The X Factor: Celebrity launch has already impressed viewers, while Strictly fans seem to be torn over the new series. Strictly Come Dancing famously avoids reality stars, but have they missed a trick? While Strictly is still beating The X Factor in ratings, it was the new series’ first TV debut and viewing figures for the new-look ITV show could well increase after a positive response.
But is there a deliberate in-built rivalry among the shows already? When building this 'ideal audience' for The X Factor, the bosses thought they would borrow some of their BBC counterparts audience too...
Brendan Cole has just made his return to TV as he launches his singing career on The X Factor. It comes after he was booted off Strictly last year following a 14-year run as a dancing professional. Strictly ratings have slowly started to dip – so could X Factor be taking on some of the Strictly demographic as Brendan dances his way onto the stage? It seems the curiosity of having a professional dancer on stage is appealing to viewers – let alone the rivalry between the two shows intensifying.
As X Factor bosses shopped around for the perfect list of candidates to build a broad audience, one group that was definitely looked a smart move was Try Star. The rugby players Thom Evans, Ben Foden and Levi Davis pulled together to perform No Diggity, and it’s clearly resonated with sports fans, who might be tempted to see how they are getting on.
Try Star is the most searched group to come from X Factor: Celebrity but the group has a low presence on social channels. Unlike the Love Island supergroup, Try Star have a combined Instagram following of just 200k – and while that puts them in an unlucky place, their sports background could shoot them back into the spotlight at an opportune moment as the Rugby World Cup reaches a conclusion. X Factor bosses, meanwhile, have shown they understand the importance of sport when strategically building the biggest possible family audience.
Working on their social following would boost their chances even more, particularly if they made a group account. Acts are more likely to do well if they communicate with their followers – it forms a closer bond on the outside. While this is something the sports stars may struggle with, it’s what reality stars have been working on for years. They are, it seems, better at playing the digital content game.
However, there is still an opportunity to work on their relationship with their audience - fans were quick to share how much they enjoyed the group, and this will continue to grow if they keep up their lovable TV persona. Although Try Star need to make a little more effort on social to land a winning record deal, they’re definitely in the running – particularly if they manage their social accounts right.
1. The new X Factor really looks like it might work. Show bosses have strategically built a broad audience that ticks many demographics.
2. The Love Island supergroup could well get the record deal prize. Social media matters and they have the power.
3. Megan McKenna has got a point to prove – and the means to prove it.
4. Sports stars can broaden their appeal with reality TV… and reality TV can broaden its appeal with sports stars.
5. ITV is trying hard to recapture the lucrative Saturday night TV crown from Strictly.
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