5:09pm Friday 7th December 2012
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Audiences have plummeted throughout the latest series of the once unstoppable X Factor.
Throughout its 2012 run the programme's ratings have consistently been down on the previous year - and a shadow of those it produced at its height.
Viewers appear to have been turning away in droves since Simon Cowell left the show after the 2010 series and by last weekend's semi-final show, the Saturday night edition was down 40% compared with the same show two years earlier.
The show has been hammered in the ratings by Strictly Come Dancing this year, at times trailing by up to two million.
Even as excitement in the show should have been reaching fever pitch during last weekend's semi-finals, the programme mustered an average of eight million viewers on Saturday night. The equivalent show in 2011 drew 10.6 million and a year earlier there were 13.7 million viewers.
This year's final has a huge uphill task to match its best. In 2010, the two-hour final results show was watched by an average of 17.2 million viewers, and at its height more than 19 million people were watching - the highest non-sport audience for almost a decade.
In contrast, BBC1's Strictly has been toasting its best ever audiences this year.
X Factor normally experiences a lift in viewer interest as it reaches its climax, but last Saturday's semi-final was actually down 200,000 on the previous Saturday.
The Sunday results show fared better with nine million, but that is actually down 2.9 million on the equivalent show in 2011, and 6.1 million down on 2010.
Fortunes have waned since show supremo Simon and Cheryl Cole left the judging panel. The failure to produce a significant rise as the series nears its end will probably cause some concerns for ITV bosses who normally saw The X Factor as one of their bankers in terms of audiences and advertising.
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