LONDON - British commercial broadcaster ITV1 on Saturday night drew 9.9 million viewers with the season debut of Simon Cowell's X Factor on the country’s hottest day of the year so far.
That was a big 46 percent share of people watching TV at the time and helped make the show the most-watched TV program of Saturday night in the U.K. with more than double the audience of the second-ranked show.
But the peak ratings came in below the show's season average of last year and the show’s first episode of 2011, which had drawn as many as 12.6 million viewers.
Across its 75 minutes, Saturday’s first episode of the new season averaged an audience of 8.7 million for a 42 percent share.
After two weeks of weak ratings due to the BBC's Summer Olympics coverage, ITV1 is hoping for a boost from the show's ninth season. The music competition has been the country's number one entertainment show for eight years in a row. But last year, the first year without an on-air role for Cowell on the U.K. show, it saw some ratings decline from a 2010 average of 17.2 million.
It still drew an average of 12.3 million in 2011 though and came in second only to the Royal Wedding in terms of overall ratings. Airing in the 8pm-9:15pm time slot, the Saturday season debut was the first episode with new judge and Pussycat Dolls star Nicole Scherzinger who replaced Kelly Rowland. Take That's Gary Barlow, Tulisa Contostavlos and Louis Walsh, the only judge who has been with the show from the beginning, are back as judges this season as is host Dermot O'Leary.
The first episode included several auditions, incuding one that featured Spice Girls member Mel B as a guest judge. Anastacia, Rita Ora and Leona Lewis are other guest judges this season. Cowell's Syco Entertainment and FremantleMedia UK unit's Thames group this year looked to expand the talent pool to open things up to more experienced performers by allowing people with management deals to audition.
For the 7-10:30pm time slot, ITV1 also dominated the ratings on Saturday with an average audience of 5.4 million, more than 1.4 million ahead of the nearest competitor.