'X Factor' Ratings? Underwhelming. Social-Media Buzz? Also Meh.

Dumenco's Trendrr Chart of the Week

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As Ad Age 's Judann Pollack noted earlier today, the series premiere of the U.S. version of Simon Cowell's "The X Factor" snagged 12.1 million viewers according to overnight estimates. Compare that number to the audience reeled in by the 10th season opener of "American Idol" in January -- 26.2 million viewers -- and Cowell's return to TV seems rather underwhelming.

To round out the picture, Ad Age asked our editorial partner Trendrr, the social-media monitoring firm, to use its Trendrr.tv service to give us an early look at the "social TV" footprint for "The X Factor." Some context for the chart below:

  • It's a truism that big reality competitions tend to do better in social response than other forms of network entertainment such as dramas and sitcoms simply because shows like "The X Factor" give social-media users lots of ready "hooks" for expressing opinions -- from the format to the judges to the contestants to the song choices. But "X Factor" didn't exactly blow away the competition. Though it was technically the most buzzed-about show of the evening with a Trendrr.tv social-TV score of 105,668 -- which counts not just tweets but public Facebook updates and GetGlue check-ins -- "Modern Family" was not far behind at 89,482. Keep in mind that "Modern Family," which topped "The X Factor" in the overnight ratings (with an estimated audience of 14.3 million), was on the air last night for one hour (ABC doubled its usual half-hour slot to kick off its third season) vs. two hours for "The X Factor."
  • Because there's also an "X Factor" in the U.K., Trendrr had to do a lot of very involved parsing of tweets -- via complex query strings -- to exclude mentions of the British original. Helpfully, Fox included an official hashtag -- #xfusa -- above its logo "bug" during the show, in an attempt to get all fans of the show on the same page.
  • Last night Trendrr started tracking individual contestant names -- some of whom, like 13-year-old Rachel Crowe, briefly trended on Twitter -- and later charts as the season progresses will reflect the breakout stars whose momentum continues. But for the most part, those tweeting about individual contestants tended to name-check "The X Factor" in some way (e.g., #xfusa), so those contestant-centric tweets generally count toward the total shown below.
  • The tweet volume for lead "X Factor" sponsor Pepsi shows clear spikes during the broadcast -- from an average of 5 to 10 per minute during normal times to peaks of 151 and 135 per minute while "X Factor" was airing on the East Coast and in the Midwest.
  • No surprise that heavily populated states like New York and California topped Trendrr's ranking of state-by -state tweeting about "The X Factor." But Trendrr's estimate of the gender split of social conversation about the show suggests that "X Factor" may end up having the same default "cute boy" problem that "American Idol" has: i.e., the cutest boy on the show could have a better chance at winning than the most talented girl because of a young-female-skewing (and boy-crazy) audience.

Dumenco's Trendrr Chart of the Week is produced in collaboration with Wiredset, the New York digital agency behind Trendrr.

Simon Dumenco is the "Media Guy" media columnist for Advertising Age. You can follow him on Twitter @simondumenco.