Here at Sofabet we hope to be your number one source of analysis for betting on X Factor 2011. With that in mind, we today start a series of posts picking over the carcass of X Factor 2010 to see what we can learn from the week-by-week voting statistics, which were released by ITV after the final.
Regular readers will know that our approach to analysing X Factor is two-part: try to discern what the producers want to happen, and then try to guess how likely it is that the voting public will oblige. We reckon it’s pretty clear that Matt Cardle was not intended to win last year’s X Factor. Simon Cowell spent the closing part of the final Sunday show bearing the countenance of a man being forced to eat shit and pretend that it’s caviar.
And yet, when the statistics were released, we learned that Matt had topped the vote every single week from the second week onwards. It can’t have been a surprise to producers when he won the show. So why hadn’t they cut him off at the knees before it was too late?
Looking at the trends for the top three, we can see that Matt had three peaks:
[A note on the graphs we’ll use in this series of posts: the vertical axis shows the act’s vote proportional to the mean given the number of acts each week. So for instance in week 1, with 16 acts, the mean was 6.25%. Rebecca got 6.51%, so we show her with 104% of the mean].
Matt’s first peak, in week 2, was when he got the pimp slot (that is, singing last in the running order – an advantage, as we shall analyse in a later post in this review series). The second, in week 5, was when he emotionally performed the bootcamp song that had propelled him to the head of the pre-show betting, ‘First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’.
But the graph indicates it was the third peak, in week 8, that gave him the crucial final shot in the arm which carried him to victory. That was when he sang ‘Nights in White Satin’.
After each of those three peaks, Matt started shedding momentum. The stats make clear that he bagged the final during the Saturday show, before the first voting freeze (represented by “Final (1)”) which saw Cher leave. In the votes cast after Cher’s departure, by our calculations Rebecca ran him pretty much neck and neck.
So here’s what we think might have happened: producers took their eyes off the ball in week 8.
How might this have happened? Well, let’s look at the trendlines for the seven contestants who were still in it going into week 8:
You could understand why it might not have looked, at that point, as if Matt needed to be cut off at the knees. He certainly doesn’t look unassailable – he looks like he’s coming back to the pack. If producers wanted to avoid a Matt victory, they might reasonably have concluded at this point that all they needed to do was avoid putting him in the pimp slot or letting him sing ‘First Time’ again.
Indeed, a strong piece of evidence that producers were still hoping to get Matt beaten on the day of the final was the absence of a “contestant’s favourite” round – which had happened in the previous two years – in which each act reprised a favourite song from the live shows. That would have given Matt the chance to sing ‘First Time’ again, and his week 5 voting performance suggests that would have made him unbeatable.
Recall that Simon Cowell expressed surprise, after Matt’s week 8 ‘Nights In White Satin’, that it had worked so well. That was understandable – it hadn’t seemed an obvious bring-the-house-down choice of song. On paper, before the show, you might have expected the standout performance of the night to have been One Direction’s ‘You Are So Beautiful’ or either of Rebecca’s numbers, ‘I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For’ or ‘I Can’t Get No Satisfaction’.
Why might producers have taken their eye off the ball in week 8? Well, let’s not forget that this was the week they had to dream up all those tactics to get rid of Wagner. We reckon Matt surprised them.
Producers may also have been comforted by the thought that they’d been in a similar position before, with a contestant dominant in the early weeks who they didn’t want to win. Take a look at the graph for the same stage of the competition in 2008:
Eoghan Quigg appears just as dominant at this stage as Matt did in 2010 – but Quigg finished only third. Admittedly, Quigg was much less talented than Cardle, and therefore in a worse position to pick up floating votes as other acts dropped out. But producers were also helped in 2008 by having two contestants – Alexandra Burke and JLS – who could emerge from the pack with a strong late run.
In 2010, there was no such emerging force – although producers tried their hardest to find one. That’s the subject of tomorrow’s piece.