David Prosser: The economics of 'The X Factor'

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The Independent Online

Outlook Justin King is one of Simon Cowell's biggest fans. The Sainsbury's boss said yesterday that Saturday night programmes such as The X Factor and Strictly Come Dancing were behind strong sales of its "Taste the Difference" range, with people seeking to recreate the restaurant experience at home rather than miss the drama of Treyc versus Katie or the latest humiliation of Ann Widdecombe.

It is a familiar theme. Domino's Pizza is so grateful for the impact The X Factor has had on sales it now sponsors the show. Other businesses are reaping rewards too.

What about the flipside? If Sainsbury's sales are spiking, many of the people sitting at home with their lamb shanks would once have been out spending money in pubs, restaurants and cinemas. We have yet to hear from these companies about the effect that The X Factor has had on their businesses.

One also wonders – not to underrate the attractions of Cowell and co – whether the phenomenon is partly being driven by the pressure on consumer spending. Even with a posh meal from Sainsbury's, a night in front of the television is likely to be cheaper than going out. Maybe The X Factor has helped people to pull in their horns. And maybe one day soon, they'll have to give up the posh meal too.

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