Music and Advertising in Television II

Case Study Analysis - The X Factor

Research Paper (undergraduate), 2008

18 Pages, Grade: 1,1


Table of Contents

1. Executive Summary

2. Introduction

3. History
3.1 Reality TV
3.2 Reality Goes Pop
3.3 “The X Factor”

4. Key Players

5. Audience

6. Impact on Popular Music Consumption

7. Issues and Trends

8. Summary

9. References

10. Bibliography

11. Appendices

1. Executive Summary

“The X Factor” is a reality pop program which first aired in the UK in September 2004 and which is still on screens today. The history of the sector is multi-faceted with the very first reality pop series, New Zealand’s “Popstars”, dating back to 1999. “The X Factor” emerged after “Pop Idol”, a similar show to “Popstars”, was put on indefinite hiatus after its second run. Ever since its first series, “The X Factor” has gone from strength to strength, with audience and voting figures increasing with each series.

The single most important person behind “The X Factor” is music mogul Simon Cowell who created the show back in 2004. His television company SyCo TV produces the program together with Fremantle Media’s talkbackTHAMES. “The X Factor” is aimed at reality TV’s target demographic and manages to attract an audience of approximately 8-9m during its weekly live broadcasts.

As the reality genre has proven particularly amenable to TV and media convergence, “The X Factor” does not just rely on the television set to communicate its message to its audiences. It also relies on other “platforms”, like the internet, live events and telephone voting, hence altering popular music consumption. With the audience determining the winner of “The X Factor” several albums released by contestants have reached the UK Albums Chart; six of them making it to number one.

“The X Factor” is often heavily criticized for standardizing pop music. Winners of “The X Factor” are often referred to as over-hyped and over-manufactured artists with reality pop programs being accused of not producing important or lasting musicians. However the commercial success of “The X Factor” is indisputable, which as a result, continues to encourage the production of further X Factor series as well as similar shows to go on.

2. Introduction

In response to the question “To what extent did this program/series/campaign alter the consumption or production or distribution of popular music?” the following report will analyze the impact of the program on popular music consumption and will demonstrate issues and trends exhibited by the series. The report will also critically evaluate historical information as well as audience data and trade responses of the program.

Information for this report has been obtained through various sources providing detailed information including academic books, journals and the World Wide Web.

3. History

3.1 Reality TV

The historical development of popular factual television is multi-faceted, yet there are three main strands that helped develop the sector namely tabloid journalism, documentary TV and popular entertainment. Production of tabloid journalism and popular entertainment increased immensely during the 1980’s, as a result of an increasingly commercial media environment where convergence between telecommunications, computers and media ensured competition amongst network, cable and satellite channels for revenue (Hill, 2005: 14).

Reality programmes draw from existing TV genres and formats to create novel hybrid programmes and, as Brunsdon et al. (2001) note, it is that hybridisation of successful genres that give Reality TV such a strong market value. Popular examples of reality programmes include “Candid Camera”, “Big Brother”, “Pop Idol” and “The X Factor” which draw on a variety of genres to create ratings winners (Hill, 2005: 15).

3.2 Reality Goes Pop

In conjunction with the visual and aesthetic style of reality TV and the focus on real or ordinary people reality pop programs expose the internal workings of the music industry and crucially its manufacture of celebrity and stardom. The aim is to place the entire concept of stardom at centre stage, emphasizing interactivity and subsequently dealing with the politics of audience response (Holmes, 2004: 148).

More than a year before the launch of the first ever reality pop program on British screens, trade papers were discussing the extent to which the diversification of music styles and the proliferation of channels would continue to affect terrestrial coverage of music. “TOTP’s” producer, Chris Cowie, claimed that, in the face of the diversification of music genres and tastes as well as the increasing number of TV channels, “no music programme could hope to appeal to everybody”. However with the start of reality pop programs the cultural and economic appeal of pop music was used as a key site on which to construct a televisual and media event. Furthermore broadcasters sought to run counter to the fragmentation of music TV at the level of production and consumption by commissioning the pop programs as they attracted a wide demographic audience (Holmes, 2004: 149-150).

The reality pop programs began with the New Zealand “Popstars” in 1999 and the phenomenally successful format then travelled around the globe creating groups in many different countries including the USA and the UK. “Popstars” (on ITV1) began in the UK in January 2001 and represented a considerable global success, not only in terms of the record-breaking single and album sales generated by the winning bands, but with respect to audience viewing figures. “Popstars” was the precursor of “Pop Idol” which was created by Simon Fuller and produced by 19 TV and Fremantle Media in 2001. After being put on indefinite hiatus after its second series “Pop Idol” was replaced by “The X Factor” in 2004, which is still on screens today (Holmes, 2004: 151-152).

3.3 “The X Factor”

“The X Factor” first hit UK TV screens on 4 September 2004 with the title referring to the indefinable "something" that makes for star quality. The music talent show franchise originated in the United Kingdom and the competitions, now held in various countries, are contested by aspiring pop singers drawn from public auditions. Since the first series the program has gone from strength to strength with audience and voting figures increasing with each series and with the finale of series 4 attracting 12.23 m viewers. “The X Factor” is the biggest television talent competition in Europe, with alone 200,000 hopefuls auditioning for the latest series in a bid to win the proposed £ 1m record deal (ITV, 2007).


Excerpt out of 18 pages


Music and Advertising in Television II
Case Study Analysis - The X Factor
London Metropolitan University  (London Metropolitan University)
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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Case study, Analysis, Advertising, Media Management, Music Management, Medien
Quote paper
Bachelor of Arts Verena Stickler (Author), 2008, Music and Advertising in Television II, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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