The X Factor probably won’t ever be the cultural phenomenon that Simon Cowell envisioned when he brought the British hit across the pond in the fall of 2011, but that fact doesn’t worry Fox soon-to-exit reality chief Mike Darnell.
“There are so many singing shows on right now. There’s just too much of it,” Darnell told TVLine in an interview just 48 hours prior to announcing that he’ll step down from his role at Fox in June. “Yes, Idol was down this season, but if you look at The Voice, it’s been down five weeks in a row, too.” (For the record, Idol‘s Season 12 finale drew 14.3 million total viewers and a 3.6 demo rating, down 33 and 44 percent from Season 11′s coronation night; The Voice‘s most recent Tuesday outing [10 mil/3.1] dipped 5 and 11 percent week-to-week).
With those numbers in mind, “your expectations have to be lowered,” Darnell told TVLine when asked about The X Factor‘s upcoming third season, which will kick off this September. “If its ratings stayed where they were at [for its Season 2 finale], we’d be very happy.” (The X Factor‘s Season 2 performance finale snagged 8.3 million total viewers and a 2.7 demo rating, down 26 and 18 percent versus Season 1′s final sing-off.)
Darnell remained vague when asked if Fox should or would consider canceling The X Factor after Season 3 because its presence on the network lineup from September to December might actually be creating a sense of reality singing competiton burnout and damaging Idol‘s juggernaut numbers when it returns to the Fox schedule each January. “There’s definitely too much of it on,” he reiterated. “And I love X Factor and we love Idol, but yes they probably hurt each other.”
On Monday, The X Factor officially added Grammy-winning recording artist/Destiny’s Child founding member Kelly Rowland and Latin pop star Paulina Rubio to its Season 3 panel — alongside returning members Demi Lovato and Cowell — and Darnell was asked if any attempt had been made to test the quartet’s chemistry, given how the uncomfortable/unfriendly vibe between Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey on the latest season of Idol was considered a likely contributor to the show’s ratings decline.
“They did get together a little bit before the show itself. But remember, Simon has worked with two of them previously [Lovato on Season 2 of The X Factor; Rowland on The X Factor UK], so there’s a sense they’ll all get along, it’s gonna be fine, and they’ve all been good judges before. And I think Simon really liked the playful idea of three women and a man — a little Charlie’s Angels if you will.”
Darnell said that the rumored X Factor UK “double auditions” — where contestants will sing for the judges in a small audition room, then again in front of a live audience — are “definitely not happening” for Fox’s version of the show this fall.