The X Factor slumped to a new low for 2012 last night after it was revealed that the final had its worst audience for seven years.
• Talent show failed to beat Strictly Come Dancing.
• Programme has seen ratings plummet in 2012.
X Factor managed an average audience of just 9.5 million for the first stage of the final last night - its worst showing since 2005 when 9.2 million watched Shayne Ward win.
It is the first time for years that the Saturday-night final of the ITV1 show has been beaten by BBC1 dance contest Strictly Come Dancing, with last night’s show trailing by 1.3 million viewers.
It is all the more embarrassing for X Factor chiefs because Strictly is still two weeks away from its own final.
In recent years, X Factor has usually enjoyed a clear lead over Strictly week after week.
But tumbling ratings in 2012 meant that it has been trailing throughout the series, at one stage by up to two million viewers.
The Saturday-night section of the final last year pulled in 10.9 million viewers but the figures look even more disastrous compared with 2010, when an average of 14.1 million watched.
Last night’s final - in which cruise crooner Christopher Maloney made his exit - drew fewer viewers than even last year’s semi-final stage of the contest.
The show has seen its fortunes wane since supremo Simon Cowell left the judging panel after the 2010 series.
The failure to produce a significant rise as the series reaches its climax will be a huge concern for ITV bosses if one of their most expensive shows fails to deliver.
The X Factor has for many years been one of their bankers in terms of audiences and advertising.
Cowell has agreed to do a third series of his US version of the X Factor, which all but rules him out for a return to rescue the UK viewing figures.
Last night’s edition of Strictly saw the highest peak audience of the series, with 12.2 million tuning in at one stage.
Girls Aloud star Kimberley Walsh achieved the first perfect score of 40 from the judges so far this series.