Will tonight mark end of X Factor?

Viewers have deserted in droves since Simon Cowell stopped judging two years ago

Critics were queueing up to pronounce The X Factor terminally ill last night, as its final sees male singers with varying degrees of street cred vying for a somewhat tarnished winner's crown.

Simon Cowell, driving force behind the show, was under mounting pressure to step in, with ratings and ad revenues down significantly on previous series. Once the dominant presence in living rooms across the country every weekend, the show is now beaten regularly in the ratings by BBC1's rival show Strictly Come Dancing, which attracts up to 2 million more viewers.

A series of lacklustre winners in previous years, along with the departure of Cowell from the judging panel, has led to a long-term decline in the once unstoppable programme's fortunes. Viewing figures last weekend were 40 per cent below the equivalent semi-final show two years ago, the last year Cowell was a judge.

TV bosses will be even more anxious tonight when hopefuls James Arthur and Jahmene Douglas go head to head in the finale of the ITV talent contest tonight (Sun) after former cruise ship singer Christopher Maloney was voted off last night - amid concern that the audience for the last show will fail to match last year's two-hour final, watched by more than 17 million. The latest show's failure to produce any significant increase in audience figures as the series approaches its climax is causing concern for ITV bosses who have regarded The X Factor as one of their most valuable cash cows.

Steve Hewlett, the former director of programmes at Carlton Television and now a media commentator, said yesterday: "This is not the beginning of the end for The X-Factor, it's gone way past that. The format has run its course, and they cannot arrest its decline. It will not collapse and die, but it's never going to be what it was. It hit its heights in the last season that Simon Cowell did. Cowell was the show's 'X factor' and they never found a way to replace him. ITV need to find a plan B, and fast."

Charlie Rudd, managing director of Bartle Bogle Hegarty, added: "It's still got massive appeal. But it feels like it's a format that needs a refresh."

An ITV spokeswoman said: "The X Factor remains one of the highest rating entertainment shows on British TV. Demand from advertisers is high because it continues to attract an incredibly important audience in very big numbers."

The sob factor

Christopher Maloney

Former cruise singer Maloney was thrown a lifeline by the public after he was initially rejected for the finals, but has since sailed through to the final of the show. Voted through as the wild-card contestant, the 34-year-old Liverpudlian has had a rough reception, receiving brickbats from the judging panel for being too cheesy pretty much every week. He has received death threats on Twitter and has been lampooned with a spoof album. Yet his tearful but close relationship with his "Nan" has been the saving of him, guaranteeing him consistently high numbers from a "grey army of voters".

James Arthur

The heavily tattooed 24-year-old from Saltburn, near Middlesbrough, has the looks and the back story that can be a winning combination. Coming from a broken home, he was depressed and living in a bedsit before auditioning for the X Factor with a rendition of Tulisa's "Young". The singer/rapper says that music was a "coping mechanism" when he "went off the rails" after his parents divorced. His mentor, judge Nicole Scherzinger, describes him as "a modern-day poet." But the pressure can get to him, with the singer suffering a panic attack after one of his first live performances.

Jahmene Douglas

Former choirboy Jahmene Douglas, 22, has the ultimate sob factor. His father was a violent abuser and he has come through suicidal depression; his brother was not able to and killed himself. The clean-cut singer struggled early in the competition with a crippling lack of confidence, saying: "I'm a stay-at-home kinda guy, I don't mingle very well". He has produced astounding vocal performances and almost tore the nation's heartstrings with a performance of Whitney Houston's "I look To You" dedicated to his late brother.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Radio 4's Today programme host Evan Davis has been announced as the new face of Newsnight

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams performing on the Main Stage at the Wireless Festival in Finsbury Park, north London

music
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Mathison returns to the field in the fourth season of Showtime's Homeland

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Crowds soak up the atmosphere at Latitude Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Meyne Wyatt and Caren Pistorus arrive for the AACTA Aawrds in Sydney, Australia

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rick Astley's original music video for 'Never Gonna Give You Up' has been removed from YouTube

music
Arts and Entertainment
Quentin Blake's 'Artists on the beach'

Artists unveils new exhibition inspired by Hastings beach

art
Arts and Entertainment
MusicFans were left disappointed after technical issues
Arts and Entertainment
'Girl with a Pearl Earring' by Johannes Vermeer, c. 1665
artWhat is it about the period that so enthrals novelists?
Arts and Entertainment
Into the woods: The Merry Wives of Windsor at Petersfield
theatreOpen-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Arts and Entertainment
James singer Tim Booth
latitude 2014
Arts and Entertainment
Lee says: 'I never, ever set out to offend, but it can be an accidental by-product'
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe judges were wowed by the actress' individual cooking style
Arts and Entertainment
Nicholas says that he still feels lucky to be able to do what he loves, but that there is much about being in a band he hates
musicThere is much about being in a band that he hates, but his debut album is suffused with regret
Arts and Entertainment
The singer, who herself is openly bisexual, praised the 19-year-old sportsman before launching into a tirade about the upcoming Winter Olympics

books
Arts and Entertainment
music
Arts and Entertainment
Jon Cryer and Ashton Kutcher in the eleventh season of Two and a Half Men

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

film
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

    Screwing your way to the top?

    Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
    Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

    Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

    Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
    Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

    Take a good look while you can

    How climate change could wipe out this seal
    Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

    Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

    Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
    Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

    Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

    A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

    A land of the outright bizarre
    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
    Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

    The worst kept secret in cinema

    A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
    Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
    Why do we have blood types?

    Are you my type?

    All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
    Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

    Honesty box hotels

    Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

    Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

    The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
    Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

    The 'scroungers’ fight back

    The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
    Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

    Fireballs in space

    Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
    A Bible for billionaires

    A Bible for billionaires

    Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes