The X Factor is a British reality television music competition to find new singing talent. Created by Simon Cowell, the show began broadcasting on 4 September 2004 with 445 episodes broadcast over fifteen series as of 2 December 2018. The show is produced by Fremantle's Thames and Cowell's production company Syco Entertainment. It is broadcast on ITV in the UK and simulcast on Virgin Media One in Ireland. "X Factor" refers to the undefinable "something" that makes for star quality. The first three series were presented by Kate Thornton. Since series four, with the exception of series twelve (which was presented by Caroline Flack and Olly Murs) and the upcoming series sixteen (which will be presented by Anthony McPartlin and Declan Donnelly), the show has been presented by Dermot O'Leary. The X Factor previously had a spin-off behind-the-scenes show called The Xtra Factor. This aired until 2016. It was replaced by an online spin-off show Xtra Bites exclusively on the ITV Hub. The main show was rested in 2019, with Cowell and ITV opting to broadcast The X Factor: Celebrity and The X Factor: All Stars as mini-series instead. At present, the programme is contracted to run until 2022. The original judging panel consisted of Louis Walsh, Sharon Osbourne and Cowell. In 2005, Paul Abdul joined the show as a guest judge whilst Osbourne was away then joined the panel in 2006 for three sets of auditions. Brian Friedman briefly replaced Walsh in the fourth series, which also saw Dannii Minogue join the panel. Friedman left during the auditions, and Walsh replaced Friedman. Cheryl Cole replaced Osbourne in the fifth series. Gary Barlow, Kelly Rowland and Tulisa joined the panel in the eighth series as replacements for Cowell, Minogue and Cole. Rowland left before the ninth series and was replaced by Nicole Scherzinger. Osbourne returned to the panel in the tenth series, replacing Tulisa. Cowell and Cole (later Fernandez-Versini) returned to replace Barlow and Osbourne in eleventh series, while Mel B replaced Scherzinger. In the twelfth series, Mel B and Walsh were replaced by Rita Ora and Nick Grimshaw. For the thirteenth and fourteenth series, Walsh, Osbourne and Scherzinger returned, replacing Grimshaw, Fernandez-Versini and Ora. Following the conclusion of the latter series, Walsh and Scherzinger quit after thirteen and four years respectively, as a judge, and Osbourne announced she would only return for the live shows; before it was later announced that she quit. Louis Tomlinson, Ayda Field (credited as Ayda Williams) and Robbie Williams joined Cowell for the fifteenth series. Ora, Grimshaw and Osbourne will be returning as judges for the sixteenth series.

The show is split into different stages, following the contestants from auditions through to the final. In the original televised audition stage of the show, contestants sang in an audition room in front of just the judges, but from the sixth series onwards auditionees sing on a stage in front of the judges and a live audience. In series 10 and 11, both auditions formats were used. In series 12, the room auditions were scrapped, leaving just the arena auditions. The room auditions were revived in series 13, and no arena auditions followed. Successful auditionees go through to "bootcamp" and then to "judges' houses", where judges narrow down the acts in their category down to three or four acts to mentor for the live shows, where the public vote for their favourite acts following weekly live performances by the contestants. There have been 15 winners of the show to date: Steve Brookstein, Shayne Ward, Leona Lewis, Leon Jackson, Alexandra Burke, Joe McElderry, Matt Cardle, Little Mix, James Arthur, Sam Bailey, Ben Haenow, Louisa Johnson, Matt Terry, Rak-Su and Dalton Harris. Winners receive a recording contract with record label Syco Music with a stated value of £1 million. This includes a cash payment to the winner, but the majority is allocated to marketing and recording costs.

From 2004 to 2010, and again in 2013 and 2014, the winning contestant's single was released in time for the end-of-year chart battle for the UK's Christmas number one (in 2005 through to 2008, 2010, 2013 and 2014, the winner's single has reached number one). As of November 2016, 41 number-one singles have been achieved by artists who have appeared on the show, such as Lewis, Burke, JLS, Diana Vickers, Olly Murs, Cher Lloyd, One Direction, Little Mix, Arthur and Ella Henderson. The show is the originator of the international The X Factor franchise. A prominent show in British popular culture, The X Factor proved hugely popular with the public during its peak. The sixth series in 2009 peaked at 19.7 million UK viewers (a 63.2% audience share).


The X Factor was created by Sony Music A&R judge Simon Cowell as a replacement for Pop Idol. Cowell, who was a judge on Pop Idol, wished to launch a show to which he owned the television rights. Pop Idol's first series was massively successful, and while the second series was also successful, the viewing figures for its finale dropped. Some – including Cowell's fellow Pop Idol judge Pete Waterman – considered Michelle McManus an unworthy winner. In 2004, ITV announced a new show created by Cowell, with no involvement from Pop Idol creator Simon Fuller – The X Factor. The perceived similarity between the two shows later became the subject of a legal dispute.



Unlike Pop IdolThe X Factor has no upper-age limit, groups can apply, and contestants are also split into categories. Cowell said, "We're trying to create a different competition. Hopefully we're going to be able to appeal to somebody over the age of 35 who keeps saying to me 'there aren't any artists I like in the competition'. It's amazing, but we haven't catered for older record buyers who want to buy into the new Cliff Richard or whatever."

For series 1–3 the competition was split into three categories: 16–24s (solo acts aged 16–24), Over 25s (solo acts aged 25 and over) and Groups (including duos). In series 4–5, the minimum age was lowered to 14, creating a 14–24 age group. With the addition of a fourth judge in series 4, this was split into separate male and female sections, making four categories in all: "Boys" (14–24 males), "Girls" (14–24 females), Over 25s and Groups. For series 6, the minimum age returned to 16, meaning that the Boys category became 16–24 males and the Girls category became 16–24 females. For series 7, the age group boundaries were changed, and the Over 25s became Over 28s, with the Boys and Girls categories becoming 16–27. It was changed back to Over 25s for series 8, before reverting to Over 28s in series 9. In series 10, it became the Over 25s again. In series 11, the minimum age returned to 14. This then returned to 16 as of series 12. Also in series 12, the Over 25s category was renamed to "Overs". In series 11, each judge chose a wildcard for another judge; this could be any act who was given a chair at any point in the six-chair challenge. In all series, apart from series 12, the show's producers decided which judge mentored which category. In the 12th series, the public chose which judge mentored which category via a Twitter vote.

Novelty acts

Alongside the more serious acts who are contesting to win the competition or gain enough exposure to secure a future recording contract, The X Factor usually has at least one "novelty act" or "joke act" in the live shows. This helps to boost ratings and add some fun into the live shows, although they tend to be controversial due to the show being primarily a singing competition. Some of the popular novelty acts to appear on the show include Rhydian Roberts, Johnny Robinson, Rylan Clark, Diva Fever, Chico Slimani, Wagner, Stevi Ritchie, Honey G and Jedward. These tend to be predominantly in the Overs category and occasionally in the Groups. For series 9, judge Gary Barlow reportedly had an issue with the Overs category, which he had been chosen to mentor. A source stated: "Gary doesn't like joke acts and the Overs category is often full of novelty acts."

While mentoring what Barlow called the 'joke category', he showed strong support for self-confessed "pantomime villain" Christopher Maloney right through to the grand final, despite strong criticism from fellow judges Louis Walsh and Tulisa for his cabaret performances. The format was changed for series 10 with no joke contestant in the final 12. Writing for The Daily Telegraph, Olly Mann felt that this change was unwelcoming. He wrote: "The fact that the joke contestants made it through to the live shows used to be the most gloriously British part of The X Factor. We love an underdog... It was a vital part of the format." However, the 'joke act' returned to series 13 with Honey G. The rapper from Harrow, North London, was described by Isabel Mohan in The Daily Telegraph as "the biggest joke in X Factor history."


There are five stages to the competition:

  • Stage 1: Producers' auditions – these auditions are un-televised, and decide who will sing in front of the judges
  • Stage 2: Judges' auditions – either in an audition room (series 1–5, 13–14), an arena (series 6–9, 12, 15–), or both (series 10–11)
  • Stage 3: Bootcamp – a series of challenges and knockout rounds (series 1–9), the Six-Chair Challenge (series 10–11, 15–) or both (series 12–14)
  • Stage 4: Judges' houses – either pre-recorded (series 1–11, 13–) or live (series 12 and 16)
  • Stage 5: Live shows (finals)

Note: In series 10–11, the Bootcamp round was shortened to only several minutes and was broadcast before the start of the Six-Chair Challenge.


This section is written like a personal reflection, personal essay, or argumentative essay that states a Wikipedia editor's personal feelings or presents an original argument about a topic.

A round of first auditions is held in front of producers months before the show is aired, either by application and appointment, or at "open" auditions that anyone can attend. These auditions, held at various venues around the UK, attract very large crowds. The auditions themselves are not televised, but shots of crowds waving and "judges' cars" arriving are filmed and later spliced in with the televised auditions shot later in the year. The production team supply the crowds with "home-made" signs. After waiting at the venue for hours and filming more inserts of screaming and waving, candidates are given a brief audition by someone from the production team. Should they pass that audition (either for reasons of talent or for the potential of making entertaining television), they are given a "golden ticket" that allows them to sing to a more senior production member. Only candidates who successfully pass that second and third auditions are invited to perform to the judges. The televised version misrepresents the process by implying that the entire huge crowds all perform to the judges.

A selection of the auditions in front of the judges – usually the best, the worst and the most bizarre (described by Louis Walsh as "the good, the bad and the ugly") – are broadcast over the first few weeks of the show. In the first five series, each act entered the audition room and delivered a stand-up unaccompanied performance of their chosen song to the judges. From series 6–9, the judges' auditions were held in front of a live audience and the acts sang either acapella or over a backing track. If a majority of the judges (two in series 1–3, or three from series 4 onwards) say "yes" then the act goes through to the next stage, otherwise, they are sent home. From series 10, the judges' room auditions were brought back; successful acts then later went onto the judges' arena auditions in seasons 10 and 11. In series 12 and 15, the room auditions were axed, with only the arena auditions taking place; while in series 13 and 14, the opposite happened with only the room auditions taking place.

Over 50,000 people auditioned for series 1, around 75,000 for series 2 and around 100,000 for series 3. The number of applicants for series 4 reached 150,000, 182,000 people auditioned for series 5, and a record 200,000 people applied for series 6. Series 7 applicants were given the opportunity to apply by uploading a video audition to the Internet. In series 9, for the first time, applicants could audition online via Facebook. The show's producers also sent a "mobile audition van" to 18 locations throughout the UK and Ireland so they can audition singers who cannot make the arena auditions.

Bootcamp and judges' houses

The contestants selected at auditions are further refined through a series of performances at "Bootcamp", and then at the "judges' houses" (previously "judges' homes"), until a small number eventually progress to the live finals (nine in series 1, 12 from series 2 to 6, 16 from series 7–8, 13 in series 9, and back to 12 in series 10). Walsh revealed in October 2007 that the houses the contestants visit may not actually belong to the judges, but are sometimes rented for the purpose. During these stages, the producers allocate each of the judges a category to mentor. In the early series, this allocation took place after completion of the auditions and prior to Bootcamp, but from series 4, all four judges work together at the Bootcamp stage. They collectively choose 24 acts (six from each category) for the next round and only then find out which category they will mentor.

Bootcamp has two stages: in the first stage, acts are allocated into groups and must perform a song to the judges in their groups, with each act showcasing a few parts of the song solo. Those who pass this stage then must sing again on their own in the next stage in front of the judges. A live audience was added to the second stage from series 4 onwards (one exception in series 5 saw the live audience in the first stage instead, and another in series 7 saw it being axed altogether due to Cole's and Minogue's absences), and the performances at both stages now take place at Wembley Arena from series 7 onwards (the first use of the live audience at the arena was in series 8) (the only exceptions since then are series 12 at The Grove Hotel in Watford and series 13 at Alexandria Palace). Usually in both stages, the judges do not give any feedback to the acts after performing, and only deliberate on which acts to send through after all the performances at each stage are finished. However, in series 5, 9, 10, 12, 13, and 14, the judges give feedback to the acts in the first stage and immediately decide who to send through. They also made the immediate decisions in the second stage in series 14. In series 7, an intermediate stage was used in-between the two stages in which the acts were taught to do a dance routine by the creative director but were not judged on performance. In series 8 and 9, the judges reviewed the audition tapes of the acts and deliberated on who to send home before their arrival, only revealing their eliminated acts to the contestants just before the first stage. In series 13, the second stage of Bootcamp was cut down and the judges made the decisions on who to send through to the next stage of the competition. Bootcamp was cut entirely in series 15 due to timing constraints and instead the judges reviewed the audition tapes and decided who to send through to the next stage of the competition.

In series 4, 6, 8, 11, 12, 13, 14 and 15, the judges found out which category they would be mentoring at the same time that the contestants found out their mentor, but in series 5, 7 and 9 the contestants did not know who their mentor was until they revealed themselves at the house or at Bootcamp in series 10. The judges then disband for the "judges' houses" round, where they reduce their six acts to three for the live shows. In series 7 and 8, a total of 32 acts went through to judges' houses, giving each judge eight acts instead of six.

Occasionally between the first and second stages of Bootcamp or prior to judges' houses, judges may look at certain rejected solo artists who they feel have potential but may be better suited in a group, and in an attempt to give them a lifeline, then send these acts into a room to form a number of different groups, each depending on size, height, fashion and chemistry. Lineup changes may also sometimes occur depending on what the judges feel the group is missing or which members they think work well with others.

In series 10, the format to Bootcamp was changed: the judges find out their categories before Bootcamp starts, and each judge will make decisions on who is performing in the Six-Chair Challenge by eliminating the contestants, this is up to each individual judge. From Series 11 onwards, the judges do not know their categories before the Bootcamp, so they have to make the decisions together. After the Bootcamp round, the mentor challenges their contestants through the Six-Chair Challenge. Judges make decisions on who to put through to judges' houses straight after each act has performed, with those getting a yes taking a chair in the final six chairs on stage. It is up to the mentor to decide, which act they want to take to judges' houses, but once all six spots are full, if the mentor wants to send another act through to the next stage it means they have to replace one of those who were previously given a yes. This format was very poorly rated by many members of the British public. Bootcamp still took place, but only highlights were shown in the first episode of the Six-Chair Challenge in series 10 and 11. In series 12, all of Bootcamp aired on-screen. A more brutal twist to the Six-Chair Challenge was introduced in series 14, where the mentor is to sit at a smaller table at the side of the arena while making the decisions, while the other judges remain at a larger table on the other side. Series 15 introduced a new feature with a golden X in front of the judging panel. Similar to the Golden Buzzer on Britain's Got Talent, the mentor can press the button once for one of their acts currently performing whom they feel has the most potential. When this is pressed, the act in question is guaranteed a 'Safe Seat', immunizing them from being swapped out for other acts, and will go straight through to Judges' Houses.

For series 12, the judges' houses round was given a new tweak: the contestants perform for their mentors in the scheduled destinations as usual, but only find out whether or not they are through to the live shows during a live decider in front of a studio audience of friends and family. Judges' houses returned to its previous format in being entirely pre-recorded at the locations for series 13 until series 16 in which it will be live again.

The X Factor house

The selected finalists (either 9, 12, 13 or 16 acts) move into shared accommodation to take part in the show. The house accommodates both contestants and TV production staff and footage from the house is often used in spin-off show The Xtra Factor. In 2009 the house, in West Heath Avenue, Golders Green, received significant press coverage when it was mobbed by fans, leading to the police being called. This led to concerns by the neighbours of the 2010 house in Hyver Hill, Mill Hill that it would receive similar attention, with a local farmer worried his land would be damaged, but local businesses were said to be looking forward to increased trade. The 2011 residence, Connaught House in Hertford Heath had cameras installed for filming. In 2012, the finalists stayed at the Corinthia Hotel in London.

Live shows

The finals consist of a series of two live shows, the first featuring the contestants' performances and the second revealing the results of the public voting, culminating in one or more acts being eliminated. Celebrity guest performers also feature regularly. These live shows were filmed at Fountain Studios in Wembley, London from series 1 to 13. In series 1–5, both live shows were broadcast on Saturday nights. In series 6, the results show moved to Sunday nights. In series 1, nine acts were put through to the live shows, increased to 12 in series 2. In series 7, following the addition of four wildcards, it increased to 16. In series 8, the judges selected four acts each to go through the live shows, without the inclusion of wildcards. Then in series 9, it reduced back to three each, but one wildcard was added, meaning there were 13 finalists. Series 10 reverted to 12 finalists. Series 11 initially did the same, but the addition of four wildcards in the live shows brought it back up to 16 finalists; but with the wildcards chosen by a different judge instead of their category's mentor. Series 12 used the same format as series 9, in which each category had three acts before one wildcard was added. For series 13, it returned to just 12 finalists, with no wildcard twist (like in series 10), although wildcard acts in each category were selected prior to judges' houses, each judge picking for another judge's category. Series 14 also used the wildcard premise as series 7 and 11, but added a twist in which the public voted for one act in each category to progress to the live shows. Series 15 returned to the judges picking four acts each with no wildcards.


The show is primarily concerned with identifying a potential pop star or star group, and singing talent, appearance, personality, stage presence and dance routines are all important elements of the contestants' performances. In the initial live shows, each act performs once in the first show in front of a studio audience and the judges, usually singing over a pre-recorded backing track. Dancers are also commonly featured. Acts occasionally accompany themselves on guitar or piano.

In the first two series, acts usually chose a cover of a pop standard or contemporary hit. In series 1, much was made of the idea that each performer/mentor combination was free to present the performance however they wanted, including performer playing live instruments, or the addition of choirs, backing bands, and dancers. From the third series, each live show has had a different theme; each contestant's song is chosen according to the theme. A celebrity guest connected to the theme is often invited onto the show, and clips are shown of the guest conversing with the contestants at rehearsal. For series 13, a jukebox theme selection was introduced; at the end of each results show, a jukebox is utilised and then spun around to find out the next week's theme from a selection of assorted themes. After each act has performed, the judges comment on their performance. Heated disagreements, usually involving judges defending their contestants against criticism, are a regular feature of the show. Once all the acts have appeared, the phone lines open and the viewing public vote on which act they want to keep.

Once the number of contestants has been reduced to four (series 1 and 3), five (series 2, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10 and 11) or seven (series 7), the format changes. Each act performs twice in the first show, with the public vote opening after the first performance. This continues until only two (series 1 and 3), three (series 2, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10 and 11) or four (series 7) acts remain. These acts go on to appear in the grand final which decides the overall winner by public vote. In past series some of the more memorable failed auditionees from the early rounds have also returned for a special appearance in the final. From its inception up to series 7, the final took place in the same studio as the live shows. However, from series 8 onwards, due to the success of the arena auditions, the final now takes place at Wembley Arena, accommodating a larger stage and a much larger audience (in series 9, however, the final took place at Manchester Central as Wembley Arena was unavailable).

Series 6 saw a change to the live show format: since then, the live shows on Saturdays show just the contestants' performances, and Sunday's results shows reveal the results for the contestants, giving viewers a much longer time span to vote. Series 9 completely changed the voting format. Lines now open for viewers to vote at the start of each show, and then close during the results show.

For series 14, the format of the live shows was revised significantly: the finalists are divided into two groups, where the contestants in each group compete against each other on Saturday or Sunday to win that night's show. The contestants with the highest votes for that night is also announced and the two acts who won their respective public votes will then sing against each other in a new element of the show called the prize fight. The winner of the prize fight will win a special weekly prize. The voting window was also shortened, viewers only have a few minutes to vote for their favourite acts after all the contestants on the night have performed.


Before the results are announced, there are live or pre-recorded performances from one or more invited celebrities, often with performers connected to the week's theme. From series 6 onwards, the results show begins with a group performance from the remaining contestants. However, the song is pre-recorded and the contestants mime, due to problems with the number of microphones. The two acts polling the fewest votes are revealed. Both these acts perform again in a "final showdown", and the judges vote on which of the two to send home. In the first four series the bottom two contestants reprised their earlier song, but from series 5 they were able to pick new songs. In series 3, a twist occurred where the act with the fewest votes was automatically eliminated, and the two with the next fewest votes performed in the "final showdown" as normal. Double eliminations have since occurred occasionally in series 7, 8, 11, 12 and 14 onwards, with series 12, 14 and 15 using them more frequently than usual due to the reduction of live shows from 10 weeks to 7 weeks. Ties became possible with the introduction of a fourth judge in series 4. In the event of a tie the result goes to deadlock, and the act who came last in the public vote is sent home. The actual number of votes cast for each act is not revealed, nor even the order; according to a spokesman, "We would never reveal the voting figures during the competition as it could give contestants an unfair advantage and spoil the competition for viewers". In the first live show of series 8, there was no public vote and the judges themselves had to eliminate one out of their own acts in their own categories.

Once the number of contestants has been reduced to four (series 1, 3, 7, 8 and 9) or five (series 2, 4, 5 and 6), the act which polled the fewest votes is automatically eliminated from the competition (the judges do not have a vote; their only role is to comment on the performances). From series 10 onwards, the semi-final proceeds with the bottom two in the final showdown for the judges to decide who to send home before the final. Three occasions in series 7, 10 and 13 during the semi-final saw the judges instead vote to send one of the bottom two through to the final. In series 1, the eliminated acts also reprised one of their songs in the results show after being voted off. This has become less common in other series, instead being relegated to results shows with no final showdown.

In series 10, the flash vote was introduced: where one contestant is revealed with the fewest flash votes on Saturday's live show, and the contestant with the second lowest votes from the remaining public vote is announced on Sunday's results show and therefore participates in the final showdown with the other contestant. Despite the flash vote eliminating all possibilities of deadlock, it quickly drew criticism from viewers and was quickly dropped after several weeks. However, another variation of the flash vote has debuted in series 11 twice as part of a double elimination. In this variation, the act who polled the fewest votes on Saturday's show is automatically eliminated. The two acts with the next fewest votes on Sunday then perform in the final showdown. This double elimination variation was used once again in series 12, the semi-final in series 15 and series 16; in the latter case two acts were sent home on Saturday before the sing-off took place on Sunday.

A lifeline vote was introduced within the first half of the series 13 live shows, where the bottom three contestants are announced. Viewers are then given a few minutes to vote to save one of the bottom three, with the winner of the lifeline vote avoiding the final showdown.

As of series 14, the contestants are split into two halves competing on Saturday and Sunday night, respectively, therefore each week is a double elimination. As the results are announced, the contestant who had the lowest viewer votes on each night is announced and leaves the show immediately; the winning contestant is announced thereafter. The quarter-final during this series served as the show's first quadruple public vote elimination: the two acts with the fewest votes on each night leaving immediately, with four acts sent home that weekend. The two winning contestants of both Saturday and Sunday night then compete in a sing-off to win their weekly prize. Once they have performed their sing-off songs, the lines then reopen and the public votes on which contestant to win the weekly prize. The semi-final dispensed with the prize fight format in a triple elimination; on Saturday night, all the acts instead sing one song each to remain in the competition before the lines open briefly, then the act with the lowest votes on the night leaves the competition. The remaining acts then sing one more song on Sunday night for the public vote to go through to the final, the two acts with the lowest votes on the night are therefore sent home as well.

Series 15 has reverted to the usual Sunday elimination format with every live show being a double elimination, albeit mostly with the lines freezing before the results show and the act with the lowest votes eliminated immediately at the beginning of the show before lines reopen briefly. The first and third live shows avoided this variation of the format; in the latter show, problems that caused sound to be distorted during some of the performances caused the Saturday vote to be cancelled and in the Sunday results show, the performances were rebroadcast without the sound problems before lines reopened in order to give all the acts a fair shot. The semi-final followed roughly the same format as the series 14 semi-final, albeit with two acts eliminated immediately after the acts' Saturday performances, before the remainder of the acts sing their second song on Sunday to avoid the sing-off.

After The X Factor

The winner of The X Factor is awarded a £1 million recording contract with Syco Music, in association with Sony Music. In series 5, this deal consisted of a £150,000 cash advance with the balance covering the costs of recording and marketing. Other highly placed contestants may also be offered recording deals, but this is not guaranteed. In series 1–3, the premise of The X Factor was that the winner would be managed in the industry by their mentor on the show. With Cowell, Osbourne and Walsh as judges/mentors, any of the three would be qualified to do so. Following the appointment of singer Minogue as a judge in series 4, the same principle could not universally apply. In fact, when Minogue won series 4 with Leon Jackson, a new outside manager was appointed.

The X Factor Live Tour is a live show that tours the UK and Ireland in the months following the conclusion of the series. It features an array of finalists from the most recent The X Factor series. From 2005 until 2010, Jeff Brazier hosted the tour. Becca Dudley took over the hosting duties from the 2018 tour, which sees a revamped format in which the finalists compete to be the winner of each night's tour, with the arena audience voting for the night's winner.

Series overview

To date, 15 series have been broadcast, as summarised below.

Contestant in (or mentor of) "16–24s" category
Contestant in (or mentor of) "Boys" category
Contestant in (or mentor of) "Girls" category
Contestant in (or mentor of) "Overs", "Over 25s", "Over 28s" or "Over 30s" category
Contestant in (or mentor of) "Groups" category

Series Start Finish Winner Runner-up Third place Winning
Main judges Guest
1 2 3 4
1 4 September 2004 11 December 2004 Steve Brookstein

Over 25s



Tabby Callaghan


Simon Cowell Simon
Sharon Osbourne Louis
Kate Thornton


20 August 2005 17 December 2005 Shayne Ward


Andy Abraham

Over 25s

Journey South


Louis Walsh
3 19 August 2006 16 December 2006 Leona Lewis


Ray Quinn


Ben Mills

Over 25s

4 18 August 2007 15 December 2007 Leon Jackson


Rhydian Roberts


Same Difference


Dannii Minogue Dannii
2 Dermot O'Leary
5 16 August 2008 13 December 2008 Alexandra Burke




Eoghan Quigg


Cheryl Cheryl
6 22 August 2009 13 December 2009 Joe McElderry


Olly Murs

Over 25s

Stacey Solomon


7 21 August 2010 12 December 2010 Matt Cardle


Rebecca Ferguson


One Direction


8 20 August 2011 11 December 2011 Little Mix


Marcus Collins


Amelia Lily


Tulisa Gary Barlow Tulisa Kelly Rowland 4
9 18 August 2012 9 December 2012 James Arthur


Jahméne Douglas


Christopher Maloney

Over 28s

Nicole Scherzinger Nicole
10 31 August 2013 15 December 2013 Sam Bailey

Over 25s

Nicholas McDonald


Luke Friend


Sharon Osbourne Sharon
11 30 August 2014 14 December 2014 Ben Haenow

Over 25s

Fleur East

Over 25s

Andrea Faustini


Cheryl Mel B 6
12 29 August 2015 13 December 2015 Louisa Johnson
Reggie 'n' Bollie


Ché Chesterman


Rita Ora Rita Ora Nick Grimshaw Caroline Flack
and Olly Murs
13 27 August 2016 11 December 2016 Matt Terry
Saara Aalto
Over 25s
5 After Midnight


Anthony McPartlin and Declan Donnelly

14 2 September 2017 3 December 2017 Rak-Su


Grace Davies


Kevin Davy White


Simon Cowell 8



1 September 2018

31 August 2020

2 December 2018

1 December 2020

Dalton Harris


Scarlett Lee


Anthony Russell

Boys TBA

Louis Tomlinson



Sharon Osbourne

Ayda Field

Rita Ora

Robbie Williams

Nick Grimshaw


Guest judge notes

  1. ^ Paula Abdul served as a guest judge for the London auditions in the third series.
  2. For the fourth series, Brian Friedman served as a guest judge for the London auditions following the departure of Louis Walsh, but was later reassigned the role of creative director and Walsh was reinstated. He was originally recruited to be a permanent judge.
  3. During the auditions and bootcamp in the seventh series, several guest judges served as temporary replacement for Dannii Minogue, who was unable to attend due to being pregnant. Geri Halliwell served as guest judge at the Glasgow auditions; Natalie Imbruglia at the Birmingham auditions; Katy Perry at the Dublin auditions; Pixie Lott at the Cardiff auditions; and Nicole Scherzinger at the Manchester auditions and bootcamp. Cheryl Cole was diagnosed with malaria after the Cardiff auditions therefore being unable to attend the Manchester auditions and bootcamp.
  4. ^ In the eighth series, during week 4 of the live shows, Kelly Rowland was unable to travel back from Los Angeles as she had a throat infection. Alexandra Burke temporarily replaced her.
  5. ^ After Rowland's departure, Geri Halliwell (Liverpool), Leona Lewis (London), Rita Ora (London), Nicole Scherzinger (London), Mel B (Manchester) and Anastacia (Glasgow) all filled in as guest judges during the auditions of the ninth series until Scherzinger joined the judging panel as the fourth permanent judge for the final auditions in Newcastle and Cardiff.
  6. ^ Tulisa served as a guest judge for the first night of week 10 of the series 11 live shows in place of Mel B who was ill.
  7. ^ In the thirteenth series, Mel B served as a guest judge during the London auditions on 17 June 2016 in place of Scherzinger, who was unavailable due to scheduling conflicts.
  8. ^ Alesha Dixon served as a guest judge for the first day of Manchester auditions in the fourteenth series, due to Scherzinger having a "previous diary commitment" and again in Edinburgh, this time for Osbourne, who was unavailable due to a long-standing back injury. Dixon returned again this time for Cowell in the second live shows.​​​​​
  9. ^ In the fifteenth series, Nile Rodgers served as guest judge from the third results show until the fifth as a replacement for Williams, who had a pre-arranged music festival performance in South America.

Judges and presenters


From series 1–3, the X Factor judges were music executive and TV producer Simon Cowell, and music managers Sharon Osbourne and Louis Walsh, although Paula Abdul was a guest judge at the London auditions in series 3. On 8 March 2007, it was announced that Walsh would not be returning as a judge for series 4. On 4 June, it was confirmed that Brian Friedman, who was hired after impressing Cowell on his show Grease Is the Word, would be replacing Walsh, along with the news of Australian singer and Australia's Got Talent judge Dannii Minogue. On 22 June, it was confirmed that Friedman had been reassigned the role of creative director and would be replaced on the panel by Walsh. Minogue became the first female judge to win after her series 4 victory with Leon Jackson.

Speculation surrounded judging line-up changes for Series 5, centering on whether Osbourne would return. On 6 June 2008, six days before filming for series 5 was due to begin, ITV confirmed that Osbourne had left the show, and a number of other artists and producers were approached regarding her replacement. On 10 June, Cheryl Cole was confirmed as Osbourne's replacement.

Despite rumours that Minogue would leave the show after series 5, all four judges from series 5 returned for series 6.

Due to Minogue's maternity leave during series 7, a series of guest judges filled in for her at the audition stages before she rejoined the panel in September. The guest judges were Geri Halliwell, Natalie Imbruglia, Katy Perry, Pixie Lott and Nicole Scherzinger. In July 2010, Cole was diagnosed with malaria towards the end of the auditions, so Scherzinger returned as a guest judge for bootcamp.

On 5 May 2011, it was announced that Cowell and Cole would not be returning to the judging panel for the eighth series, to concentrate on the American version of the programme. On 14 May, it was announced that Minogue would not be returning either. Of her decision, Minogue said "During discussions for me to return [to The X Factor] it became clear that unfortunately, this year, The X Factor audition dates in the UK clash with the live shows of Australia's Got Talent during June and July. For this reason I am unable to return.". After Cowell, Minogue aCole announced their leave, a number of celebrities were linked with judging roles, including Frankie Sandford, Gary Barlow, Noel Gallagher, Nicole Scherzinger, Tulisa, Kelly Rowland and Alesha Dixon, though Dixon ruled herself out, due to her commitments with Strictly Come Dancing, she later joined Cowell's other show Britain's Got Talent. On 30 May, it was announced that Barlow, Rowland and Tulisa would join Walsh for series 8. On 29 and 30 October, Rowland was unable to travel back from Los Angeles as she had a throat infection, and was unable to judge the fourth week of the live shows, so series 5 winner Alexandra Burke took her place.

Barlow, Walsh and Tulisa returned for Series 9. Rowland left due to other commitments. Geri Halliwell, Leona Lewis, Rita Ora, Nicole Scherzinger, Mel B and Anastacia all filled in as guest judges during the audition stage of the competition until a permanent judge was found. Scherzinger was confirmed as Rowland's replacement, and reappeared on the panel from the Newcastle auditions on a permanent basis.

On 21 May 2013, ending months of media speculation, Tulisa announced that she would not return as a judge for the 10th series. The following day, Osbourne's return to the show and appointment as Tulisa's replacement for series 10 was announced, along with confirmation of returning judges Walsh, Barlow and Scherzinger. Osbourne later clarified in July that her return was not permanent, and that she would leave once more at the conclusion of series 10. Barlow announced during the first live show of series 10 that it would be his last series on the show.

On 7 February 2014, it was confirmed that Cowell would return as a judge for Series 11. On 10 March, Cowell confirmed that Cole (then Fernandez-Versini) would return as a judge for the 11th series as a replacement for Osbourne. On 30 May, Walsh confirmed that he was returning for his 11th series. On 10 June, it was confirmed that Spice Girls member Mel B would join the panel as Scherzinger's replacement for the 11th series.

Cowell was confirmed to return as a judge for the 12th series. In April 2015, Walsh sighted his desire to quit the show and return to management, and that it would take serious thought for him to return for the series' 12th series. He also revealed that he was in the dark about whom Cowell had the intentions of bringing onto the panel. On 14 May 2015, Walsh confirmed his exit from the series, stating, "The truth is I've done it for 11 years; I never thought I would even be on TV for four or five. To get 10 was great, to get 11 was amazing – I'm not hanging around for them this year." On 16 June, it was announced that Fernandez-Versini would return to the panel, alongside new judges radio personality Nick Grimshaw and series 9 guest judge, Rita Ora, who was previously a coach on the rival show, The Voice UK.

On 18 February 2016, a series representative announced Grimshaw's departure from the judging panel, confirming: "We are sad to see him go but wish him all the best." On 5 April 2016, Fernandez-Versini announced her departure from the series, choosing instead to concentrate on her music career. On 10 May, Ora confirmed she would not return for the 13th series of the show. On 1 June 2016, the line-up for series 13 was confirmed as Cowell, Scherzinger, Osbourne and Walsh. In December 2016, Walsh confirmed we would continue to judge the series through 2018, stating he had signed through "the next two years". That same month, both Osbourne and Scherzinger cast doubt on their return, with Osbourne citing her dual-work on The Talk, and Scherzinger stating: "I can't confirm that I'm going to [be back] but I think if I did return it would have to be with this panel because I'm really close with this panel. [...] I've really enjoyed myself and we're really close." On 13 April 2017, Cowell announced his intentions to retain the same judging panel for the fourteenth series. In June 2017, it was announced that the judging panel would remain the same as the previous series. On 7 June 2018, ITV announced Cowell would return to the show, with long-running judge, Walsh, announcing his departure; Osbourne announced that she would only be part of the show's live episodes, becoming the series' first-ever fifth judge. On 17 July 2018, Robbie Williams and his wife, Ayda Field, along with former One Direction contestant, Louis Tomlinson were announced to be joining the series' judging panel. On 30 September 2018, Osborne announced her decision to no longer appear as a judge during the live shows, stating that she's "seen the new judges finding their rhythm and are doing brilliantly."

In 2019, Williams and Field announced their departures from the programme. Tomlinson departed the show, as well.

The sixteenth series saw the return of twelfth series judges Grimshaw and Ora and the return of Scherzinger to the panel.

Presenters and other personnel

The first three series of the show were hosted by Kate Thornton. She was replaced from series 4 by Dermot O'Leary who signed a contract worth £1 million to present two series of the programme on ITV. O'Leary was not forced to leave the Big Brother franchise and continued to present Big Brother sister shows during summer 2007, but he later announced that Big Brother: Celebrity Hijack was to be his last Big Brother hosting role so that he could focus on presenting The X Factor. In 2013, Caroline Flack became a backstage presenter for the live shows on Saturdays. On 27 March 2015, O'Leary announced that he was quitting the show in order to pursue other projects. On 16 April 2015, ITV confirmed that both Olly Murs and Flack would take over presenting duties, becoming the first duo to host the show. On 21 February 2016, during an interview with The Sun, Murs confirmed his decision to quit the series in order to focus on his music. In a statement, Murs stated, "This was an incredibly hard decision to make and one I didn't take lightly as I've really enjoyed co-hosting The X Factor." Following Murs' decision to exit the series, Flack confirmed she would exit as well, stating, "I have had a brilliant time working on The X Factor over the last few years, and hosting the main show was just fantastic – I made some amazing friends." On 29 March 2016, O'Leary announced his return to the series, stating he was "very flattered to be asked back" and that he was also "really looking forward" to returning as host. O'Leary then said on February 2020 that he would take a year's break and would be returning in 2021. Cowell said in a statement that he would love it if Anthony McPartlin and Declan Donnelly (Ant & Dec), who host Cowell's other show Britain's Got Talent, would be the presenters of the sixteenth series. O'Leary then returned to host the final two seasons of the show.

Friedman served as performance coach and choreographer (billed as "Creative Director") from series 4–7 and left before series 8 to join the American version. Brian Burke and Elizabeth Honan replaced him for series 8, although Friedman returned for three weeks in series 9 and Honan did not return. For series 10, Burke was replaced by Jerry Reeve and Mark "Swany" Swanhart. Friedman returned as creative director in series 11, replacing Reeve and Swanhart. Yvie Burnett has been The X Factor's vocal coach since series 2, but was replaced in series 7 by Ali Tennant and Savan Kotecha. However, Tennant's contract was ended before the live shows and Burnett was reinstated. In series 7, Richard "Biff" Stannard started work as show song producer for Minogue's contestants, and Grace Woodward joined the series as Fashion Director. Voice-overs are provided by Peter Dickson and Enn Reitel. Dickson announced his departure from the show on 28 July 2015, but announced his return due to "popular demand" on 30 October 2015.

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