X Factor's dark art of over-promotion

22:40, Jul 23 2013

I promised on Twitter that I wouldn't do a review of The X Factor NZ*. There's been plenty of decent coverage here at Stuff already and, besides, even as the finale ended on Monday, people around the web were already making jokes about the future career (or lack thereof) the contestants can enjoy. My favourite: @NathanWinter75's jab that "It is a sad reality that all of X Factor's finalists will have to move offshore in order to pursue a serious career in retail." Ouch!

To be honest, I don't really care what winner Jackie Thomas does next. If she has a chart-topping single and album, and does a sold out tour of the country, good on her. If she goes back to Greymouth and takes a job working the checkout at the local New World, good on her. I wish her every success in whatever she chooses to pursue in life.

As far as the show itself goes though, I actually found myself bothered more by the incessant cross-promotion surrounding it. I'm happy for The X Factor to exist. I'm not so happy for it to permeate everything else on the channel.

If you've seen anything on TV3 or Four in the last few months (which, for me, means nearly half my viewing some weeks), you'll know that The X Factor has been everywhere. I feel like every show I've watched since mid-April has been immediately followed by one of those annoying "hey, look at the contestants smiling in slow motion" promos.

A handful of contestants have appeared on Jono & Ben At Ten every week, with the show even doing a direct parody of the talent contest in their (admittedly pretty damn funny) Next Actor segments.

It went into overdrive on Monday night: Kate Rodger did a report from backstage during the 6pm news bulletin, capped off with Rodger announcing "let's take a look back at X Factor's time on the show" ahead of a montage, while some of the Campbell Live team invaded The X Factor dressing rooms. Hint: there was far less plaid than you'd think.


At some point, it all became too much.

I understand TV3 had a lot invested in the success of the show; given the well-publicised state of the company, The X Factor needed to be a hit. And it was a hit, averaging a smidge over 400,000 viewers per episode, according to ratings data compiled by the good people at Throng. It's TV3's most successful show of 2013 at this point.

But how much of that is due to the over-saturation of X Factor-related promos, cross-promotions and tie-ins we suffered through? How much is due to the fact that people were always going to watch The X Factor?

I can't be the only one bothered by the sheer volume of screen time TV3 and Four dedicated to The X Factor in the last few months. And it seems to me that if it wasn't necessary to commit so much time to promoting the show, it would have been wiser not to commit so much time to promoting the show.

After all, as we saw in the comments last week, goodwill toward free-to-air television is in short supply. None of the networks can afford to burn away what little remains by over-promoting a show that doesn't need it and doesn't interest everybody.

Did you notice the extensive promotion (and cross-promotion) surrounding The X Factor NZ? Did it bother you? And what did you make of the first season of the talent show?

(*) Oh, what the hell, I can't help it - here are a few stray thoughts:

- It was a shame that Dominic Bowden's pause before announcing the winner was trumped by the screens announcing Jackie before he did; a rare slip up on a show that had been pretty slick to that point.

- I actually thought Jackie was the third best singer in the final, while Benny was the most discernable talent of the bunch; I expect that third place will actually help his career, as second place did for Adam Lambert.

- Whatever you might think of the contestants or the show, this was a great success for TV3 - the ratings were probably lower than hoped for, but the production quality and engagement from viewers (at least, as it appeared to me) made NZ's Got Talent look like amateur hour. This was a world-class edition of the show. Nice work!

- By the way, if you want to hear a version of Skinny Love with real heart, check out Bon Iver's original. Haunting.

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