The x-factor is generally seen as that mysterious ‘thing’ that people, programs, paintings, music, whatever, have that makes them popular, watchable and lifts them above the rest.

So after the first month of official ratings, it seems some how appropriate to realise that there a number of programs on commercial TV that lack the x-factor, starting with, ironically, The X-Factor on Ten.

After its performances Sunday and Monday nights, can Ten do anything to X-Factor to avoid it suffering a fate similar Queer Eye’s local version? Ten argues ‘give it time’ to develop and others in TV agree. But the lack of growth in the X-Factor’s audience and the removal of Queer Eye’s local version from its schedule has seen Ten on the front foot, trying to countering the drop in audience numbers for the network so far this year.

This story from The Australian’s Media Section was a prime example of the ‘spin’ Ten is putting on itself – Ten confident of a ratings win

But like it or not Ten’s 2005 is not going to be as rosy as 2004, despite the presence later this year on the screen of Big Brother and Australian Idol. Ten has paid millions of dollars in fees for The X-Factor rights, plus the production costs, and these have to be earned back some way and amortised against advertising revenues.

The equation is greater for Ten with X-Factor than with the local version of Queer Eye. Ten’s local take of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy was pushed from the schedule last week, off to die in fillerdom on the Network when the real thing (the US version) arrives later this month.

There will be a little more ad revenue to amortise the costs of Queer Eye against, but the outgoing for Ten will be much smaller than with X-Factor. X-Factor is simply too big, too expensive and too prestigious for Ten to pull or re-shape during this first season. Pulling or switching it would probably demand a senior executive casualty and so far no volunteers have been detected. It’s stuck with it and can only wait and hope audiences build as the competitive part of the program gets closer.

But as Ten Programmer David Mott tried to spin in The Australian article, Ten knows it’s third in all people, third in 25 to 54 and in for a very hard fight for the 16 to 39 age group that it didn’t expect a fortnight ago.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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