X Factor loses out in ratings fight
ITV's decision to screen an extra edition of X Factor against the launch of Strictly Come Dancing looks to have backfired after the talent show pulled in one of its lowest ever audiences.
Strictly easily won the head to head battle last night, pulling in 700,000 more viewers than its rival.
The BBC1 dance show had an average of 6.5 million for its hour-long show, while its ITV rival drew just 5.8 million, one of its worst figures since the series launched in 2004.
The first bootcamp show of 2013 had two million more viewers at 7.8 million, although it was screened on a Saturday rather than a Friday last year.
Many will now question the wisdom of ITV's surprise decision to schedule a Friday edition of The X Factor for the first time.
The network had said its Sunday night schedule was too full so it had to spread the "boot camp" stage over three consecutive nights, instead of two.
The latest figures will come as a blow to Simon Cowell who had hoped to rejuvenate X Factor viewing figures with his return to the judging panel, but this year's ratings have continued a downward trend for the show over the past three years.
Last night's peak audience for Strictly, which saw Jake Wood top the leader board, was 6.8 million.
ITV claimed its X Factor peak was 6.6 million, which includes viewers of its +1 catch-up channel.
ITV drew some comfort from the fact that its decision to air the show last night doubled the usual audience of 2.9 million for the channel at that time on a Friday.
The two shows were also up against the launch of a new series of Channel 4's hit Gogglebox which pulled in 2.7 million.
Strictly and X Factor have already met once earlier this month when the preview edition of the BBC1 show was screened, introducing the celebrities to their partners.
The dance contest was also the victor on that occasion according to overnight figures, but using "consolidated" figures compiled from viewing over the subsequent week it was 70,000 ahead - although this does not include iPlayer views which would also add hundreds of thousands to Strictly's figure.
But it was not plain sailing for Strictly either. Its audience last night was down more than a million on the 7.8 million who tuned in for the 2013 launch.