The X Factor received a considerable ratings boost this weekend when more than 9 million people tuned in to watch the show's return in what has been branded the “Sharon Osbourne effect".
Straight-talking Sharon, 60, who left in the ITV talent show in 2008 amidst reports of tension with fellow judge Dannii Minogue, helped Saturday night's launch show pull in an average audience of 9.2 million - 500,000 more than last year's debut.
The show had a peak audience of 10.3 million and ITV bosses will be hoping the figures mark an end to the downward slide ratings have been taking since Simon Cowell fled the UK judging panel for the American version three years ago.
The lowest audience since 2006 tuned in to watch James Arthur win last year’s finale. The competition’s much hyped conclusion saw an average audience of 11.1 million compared with the 13.1 million who watched Little Mix win in 2011.
In 2010, when Cowell was still on the judging panel, 17.2 million tuned in to see Matt Cardle triumph.
Last year ratings for the series opener fell to 8.7, considerably less than the 12 million of 2011.
The return of original judge Sharon Osbourne, wife of Black Sabbath frontman Ozzy, has been hailed by audiences as a major draw for the talent show now in its tenth series.
Piers Morgan tweeted on Saturday night: “No surprise to see @MrsSOsbourne trending - she makes everything more amusing. #XFactor”
Sharon, who replaced N-Dubz singer Tulisa, responded to a storm of congratulatory tweets from fans last night.
“Your @TheXFactor tweets are fabulous! Thank you all so much for the love, sending it right back at you! Big hug, Mrs.O”
She added: “After 10 years @TheXFactor panel is the way it should be, you’ve got 2 artists & 2 managers. Artists & managers look at talent differently.”
The X Factor has for many years been one of ITV's bankers in terms of audiences and advertising. The channel will hope changes to the show's structure judge will keep viewers tuning in.
This series saw the re-introduction of intimate auditions held before the judging panel only. Previously contestants had been auditioned before an arena audience.
The return of X Factor rival, Strictly Come Dancing, later this year will also up the stakes as the broadcasters battle to dominate Saturday night viewing. TV personality Vanessa Feltz and BBC Breakfast host Susanna Reid have already been confirmed for the BBC ballroom dancing show.