Strictly vs X-Factor

Put your Peter Dickson (X-Factor announcer) voice on…

Ladies and Gentleman.

It’s Saturday

It’s time for



The X-Factor

It’s a general rule, but there are three types of people. The Strictly people, the X-Factor people, and the people who don’t care for either. Yep, Saturday Night reality TV has definitely become a tribal affair. Even the small number that watch both shows will have a preference as to which they view at the time of broadcast, and which they watch later on catch up services.

Things are properly hotting up on both shows now. The loveable-but-inept contestants that we all love to keep in the competition (think Honey G and Ed Balls)  have finally been whittled away and we’re down to a select few who actually have talent. Which means it’s a good time for a look at Strictly vs. X-Factor…

Our first question is which to begin with. If we choose Strictly, the X-Factor fans will be upset. If we choose Simon Cowell’s Syco behemoth (no, we don’t mean his beard), the Strictly folk will cry foul.  So, in time honoured TV fashion, we’ll be choosing our running order based on viewing figures. And it’s here (for 2016 at least) that Strictly has been miles and miles ahead – not far shy of 4 million more people tune in, on average, to the BBC’s Saturday offering. So, on that bombshell (to quote another wildly successful BBC show), BBC Strictly Come Dancing – you’re on first.


Unbelievably, Strictly Come Dancing is now in series 14, the first season having gone to air in 2004. The fanbase has grown and grown and viewers who were ‘there from the beginning’ love to tell others how long they’ve been devoted to it.  It has all the classic ingredients for a Reality TV show that people connect with.  Firstly there’s a real skill involved at the heart of the show – dancing – and by pairing the celebrity contestants with world-class professionals the routines are always going to have a level of excellence that entertains.

But it’s the judging panel where there are the biggest format similarities.  There’s a patriarchal expert (Len Goodman/Louie Walsh) a matriarchal judge with bags of experience (Sharon Osborne/Darcy Bussell) a larger than life wonderfully enthusiastic ‘supporter’ (Nicole Sherzinger/Bruno Tonioli), but more than anything there’s the pantomime villain. The judge who says harsh things. The one we all love to hate and is the talk of the workplace on Monday morning. In Strictly’s case it’s Craig Revel-Horwood, whilst for X-Factor it has always been Simon Cowell – in fact when he wasn’t on it, ratings took a hit.

With the exception of one week at Blackpool Tower’s iconic Pavillion Ballroom, Strictly is filmed on a purpose built set at Elstree studios in Hertfordshire. Strictly uses another little trick (if you didn’t know already) the results show and dance-off are filmed on Saturday evening, after the main show has aired and voting lines have closed, so what viewers think is ‘as live’ was actually recorded the evening before at Elstree with the same audience.


X-Factor has also been going since 2004 – although Popstars, Popstars the rivals and Pop Idol had been on air as similar shows since 2000.  In terms of ingredients to the format it’s very similar to Strictly. A judging panel of 4, with each playing one of the classic format roles. The judging panels on X-Factor have been a lot more fluid, changing and adapting whilst they try to compete with Strictly.

Where the two shows differ is in the contestants. In X-Factor they come from the general public – so there are plenty of heart string stories to tug on. As a result there’s also the audition stages, so the series starts much earlier (August) and runs throughout the Autumn. The other major difference is the commercial angle. The BBC show is purely about entertainment, whilst the X-Factor is linked to the music industry. The X-Factor winner claiming the Christmas number one spot has become something of a modern tradition in recent years, albeit with one or two ‘protest’ exceptions and controversies such as whose version of Hallelujah was best.

Whichever final you choose to watch (or not watch) in the run up to Christmas, we hope you enjoy it – and get talking about it with family, friends and colleagues. But we can’t help thinking – these shows were revolutionary when they first aired – but reality TV has been around for over a decade and a half now. Maybe, just maybe, we might be on the cusp of something fresh to change our viewing habits. So come on TV in  2017 – surprise us…


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