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Cowell concedes defeat to Strictly

Simon Cowell has conceded defeat in "round one" after The X Factor was beaten by the launch of Strictly Come Dancing when the two shows were screened in a head-to-head clash last night.

Strictly's average audience of 8.4 million - who tuned in to see Sir Bruce Forsyth bow out, as well as the pairing of the celebrities with professional partners - was 800,000 ahead of its ITV rival.

X Factor - which has been given a judging panel revamp to improve its figures - was actually two million viewers down on the 9.6 million who watched the equivalent fourth show of the series last year.

Programme boss Cowell lamented the scheduling of the shows which were both screened at 8pm last night. When schedules were announced last month, he accused the BBC of trying to damage his show but the corporation claimed it had been forced into that time because of other programming.

He said today: "Round one to them. Such a shame they were both on at the same time."

X Factor's average audience of 7.6 million viewers last night was more than a million down who had watched the edition screened a night before, with 8.7 million watching on Saturday.

Not only did last night's Strictly have the higher average audience, it was also ahead in terms of peak audience - pulling in 9.4 million viewers at its height, while Cowell claimed his show had a peak of 9.2 million.

ITV's figures also include viewers of their +1 channel. If the catch-up channel is stripped out, there were an average of 7 million viewers watching X Factor when the two shows were screened simultaneously.

X Factor bosses had hoped to revitalise their viewing figures this year with a revamp of the judging panel, welcoming back Cowell and Cheryl Fernandez-Versini - formerly Cole - to the show.

Strictly has been ahead for the past two years, with the ITV contest suffering an ongoing ratings slip.

But after a promising start for X Factor's launch a little over a week ago, the show has had a ratings hiccup with Saturday's show down 800,000 on the launch edition.

Strictly viewers saw show veteran Sir Bruce hand over to the new co-hosts after a decade fronting the show in style - by performing a tap dance.

And he admitted: "I'll really miss being here with this atmosphere, with Dave and the band and the singer. It is that kind of night for me."

Celebrities taking part this year include pop star Pixie Lott, tennis coach Judy Murray and MasterChef presenter Gregg Wallace who will battle it out on the dance floor in a bid to win the coveted glitterball trophy.

Professional dancer Iveta Lukosiute was lost for words as she was partnered with rugby hunk and model Thom Evans.

And the couple were tipped as early favourites by judge Len Goodman, who told viewers: "The one I'm going to look out for is Tom. He is used to being in a scrum, and with Iveta they are going to be scrumptious."

Food-lover Wallace is hoping to cook up a storm on the dance floor with Aliona Vilani. He declared: "I am very happy because I know what an amazing dancer she is. I am really chuffed, I've watched Aliona dance and she is amazing."

But he might get a grilling from Craig Revel Horwood as the judge revealed he was out to dish up some revenge after Wallace panned his food when he appeared on MasterChef.

Horwood said: "I'm dying to see Greg Wallace dance, darling. He said some very nasty things to me on Celebrity MasterChef and I don't know whether I should forgive him."

Judy Murray was partnered with Anton Du Beke - and revealed that she would "wipe" her son Andy's Wimbledon trophy from the mantelpiece for the glitterball trophy.

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