Record numbers tuned into X Factor finale

The X Factor finale attracted a record audience of almost 20 million viewers last night, ITV said.

The broadcaster said that the series notched up the biggest non-sport audience on any channel since 2001.

A peak of 19.4 million (a 60% share of TV viewers) tuned into see Matt Cardle take this year's crown on ITV1 and ITV1 HD.

The two-hour show, which kicked off at 7.30pm, was seen by an average of 17.2 million, a 55% share.

Both figures are records for the X Factor, which this year has been dogged by controversy.

The series has been in the headlines since Cheryl Cole decided to drop Gamu Nhengu, who was facing deportation to Zimbabwe, for the live shows.

Recent controversies included the revelation that contestant Katie Waissel's grandmother was working for an online escort agency, and the news that watchdog Ofcom was investigating the show for promoting guest acts' downloads.

The previous X Factor record - a 19.1 million peak and 15.5 million average - was achieved last year.

ITV said last night's show was the biggest non-sport audience since 2001, when the Only Fools And Horses Christmas Day special attracted around 21 million on BBC1.

Last night's Strictly Come Dancing, on BBC1, which was broadcast from 7pm to 7.30pm, averaged 11.6 million viewers (41.1%).

The show, which has its final next week, peaked at 12.7 million and 44.1%.

The X Factor enjoyed its most successful ever run, with an average of 12.9 million (48%) watching the seventh series on ITV1.

The broadcaster said it marked an increase of more than 9% on the average of 11.8 million (45% share) for the 2009 series, which was previously the most watched.

The Xtra Factor followed last night's show with a peak audience of 3.3 million and averaged 2.5 million (10.3%), giving the ITV2 programme its second highest viewing figures ever.

Peter Fincham, ITV's Director of Television, said: "The spectacular performance of last night's final show is the highlight of a terrific seventh series for The X Factor and caps a superb autumn for ITV1.

"An audience of almost 20 million is a phenomenal achievement for any channel in the modern digital age, and to attract almost 50% of the viewing public over 17 weeks is a great reflection on the work of the teams at (producers) Syco, talkbackThames and ITV, and the fantastic acts on this year's show."

Stephen Blake of the CMA  Photo: Vikki Ellis

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