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.

Arts and Entertainment
Princess Olga in 'You Can't Get the Staff'
tvReview: The anachronistic aristocrats, it seemed, were just happy to have some attention
Arts and Entertainment
Laura Wood, winner of the Montegrappa Scholastic Prize for New Children’s Writing
books

Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search

Arts and Entertainment
Pulling the strings: Spira Mirabilis

music
Arts and Entertainment
Neville's Island at Duke of York's theatre
musicReview: The production has been cleverly cast with a quartet of comic performers best known for the work on television
Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol

art
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Minchin portrait
For a no-holds-barred performer who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, Tim Minchin is surprisingly gentle
Arts and Entertainment
Clara takes the lead in 'Flatline' while the Doctor remains in the Tardis
tvReview: The 'Impossible Girl' earns some companion stripes... but she’s still annoying in 'Dr Who, Flatline'
Arts and Entertainment
Joy Division photographed around Waterloo Road, Stockport, near Strawberry Studios. The band are Bernard Sumner (guitar and keyboards), Stephen Morris (drums and percussion), Ian Curtis (vocals and occasional guitar), Peter Hook (bass guitar and backing vocals).
books
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Harris in 'The Goob' film photocall, at the Venice International Film Festival 2014
filmThe Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Streisand is his true inspiration
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor contestant Fleur East
tvReview: Some lacklustre performances - but the usual frontrunners continue to excel
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Tuttle's installation in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern
artAs two major London galleries put textiles in the spotlight, the poor relation of the creative world is getting recognition it deserves
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman
film
Arts and Entertainment
On top of the world: Actress Cate Blanchett and author Richard Flanagan
artsRichard Flanagan's Man Booker win has put paid to the myth that antipodean artists lack culture
Arts and Entertainment
The Everyman, revamped by Haworth Tompkins
architectureIt beats strong shortlist that included the Shard, the Library of Birmingham, and the London Aquatics Centre
Arts and Entertainment
Justice is served: Robert Downey Jr, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong and Robert Duvall in ‘The Judge’

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Clive Owen (centre) in 'The Knick'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
J.K. Simmons , left, and Miles Teller in a scene from

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Team Tenacity pitch their fetching solar powered, mobile phone charging, heated, flashy jacket
tvReview: No one was safe as Lord Sugar shook things up
News
Owen said he finds films boring but Tom Hanks managed to hold his attention in Forrest Gump
arts
Arts and Entertainment
Bono and Apple CEO Tim Cook announced U2's surprise new album at the iPhone 6 launch
Music Album is set to enter UK top 40 at lowest chart position in 30 years
Arts and Entertainment
The Michael McIntyre Chat Show airs its first episode on Monday 10 March 2014
Comedy
Arts and Entertainment

Review

These heroes in a half shell should have been left in hibernation
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Flanagan with his novel, The Narrow Road to the Deep North
books'The Narrow Road to the Deep North' sees the writer become the third Australian to win the accolade
Arts and Entertainment
New diva of drama: Kristin Scott Thomas as Electra
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Latest stories from i100
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.

    Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

    A new American serial killer?

    Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
    Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

    Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

    Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
    Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

    Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

    Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
    Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

    Wildlife Photographer of the Year

    Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
    Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

    Want to change the world? Just sign here

    The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
    Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

    'You need me, I don’t need you'

    Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
    How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

    How to Get Away with Murder

    Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
    A cup of tea is every worker's right

    Hard to swallow

    Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
    Which animals are nearly extinct?

    Which animals are nearly extinct?

    Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
    12 best children's shoes

    Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

    Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
    Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

    Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

    Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
    Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

    Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

    Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
    Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

    Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

    Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
    British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

    British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

    Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
    Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

    Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

    UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London