Strictly Come Dancing gained more than a million viewers and won its direct head-to-head battle with X Factor this weekend, sparking rumours that Simon Cowell could be forced to return to save the flagging ITV series.
The two shows clashed for 15 minutes on Saturday night, with with 9.5 million watching the BBC ballroom competition and 8.3 million tuning in to watch Gary Barlow & Co. The ITV show still scored more viewers overall (11.5 million to 11 million) but bosses at the Beeb are thought to be delighted after closing the gap.
Strictly producers have claimed that these figures show that an extra million viewers are tuning into watch the gallivanting celebrities and X Factor has lost 300,000 viewers since last week and two million when compared to the same week in last year’s series.
A BBC spokeswoman said: “As far as we are concerned we are absolutely delighted by our figures and delighted that more people are tuning in to see our celebrity dancers each week.”
ITV execs responded by stating that X Factor is still the most popular show on Saturday night television, but there are rumours circulating that they are desperate for Simon Cowell to return to boost audiences. According to The Sun, his comeback could mean the end for Louis Walsh, who was forced to apologise for labelled Misha B a bully last night.
“It doesn’t take a genius to work out that Simon not being on has hit the ratings,” an insider told the tabloid. “ITV are happy with the panel. They think they’re great. But they realise when it comes to X Factor judges, there isn’t anyone like Simon. He IS X Factor.
“Simon has a lot on his plate in America with the US X Factor but he has not ruled out a return. The likelihood is that Louis will be gone next year — and Simon could make a welcome return.”