X Factor 2011: What’s the plan?

We’re back! After a summer devoid of TV shows to bet on, X Factor returns to our screens on Saturday August 20th. With the help of your insights in the comments box, we hope to work towards some wisdom on the elimination and win markets as the series progresses.

To start with, the plan here on Sofabet is to publish one article a week during the audition shows phase. We’ll wait till midweek rather than posting immediately after the show, so we can also see which acts are getting traction in the tabloids, and round up what rumours we’re aware of.

But the more interesting question – and one we’d love your opinions on – is what are the producers planning for 2011?

Last year we thought from the start that One Direction were the Producer Plan A, partly because it was surely high time the groups category justified its existence. A group still hasn’t won the show (although JLS are among its most successful alumni); will they have another serious go this year? Giving the category to Gary Barlow would be a suggestive sign. Have they found a plausible readymade group? Would they have the brass neck to cobble together soloist rejects from bootcamp yet again? Or will the groups revert to the familiar archetypes of cannon fodder for the early weeks and comedy siblings?

Of course, plans aren’t only about the winner. We’ll spend the audition shows trying to figure out what trajectories the producers might have in mind for the acts that get a decent chunk of screentime. One Direction didn’t come off, for example, but one plan which surely worked perfectly last year was Cher Lloyd: set up from the start as a polarising figure, she was too Marmite ever to have a hope of winning – but the show played her astutely, shepherding her to fourth place and building enough of a fanbase to cash in with a debut single that topped the charts a week ago.

The first audition show should provide us with rich pickings. It makes sense to get your water-cooler acts in early, and this is just what the show has done in the last couple of years – the first audition show of 2009 introduced us to Jedward (as well as three of the eventual top four: Joe McElderry, Stacey Solomon and Danyl Johnson), while last year’s first audition show unleashed the controversy-magnet that was Katie Waissel.

That first show last year also went big on Gamu Nhengu, a salutary reminder of how things can change. And this brings us to a degree of trepidation we feel about this year’s series. The attraction of the X Factor as a betting medium is its formulaic predictability, but this year is set to see some shake-ups.

Most obviously, we have three new judges. When I went on a reconnaisance trip to one of the audition sessions, it seemed clear that the new judges are supposed to be slotting neatly into the roles the others have vacated – Gary stepping into Simon’s shoes as the only one whose opinion is really worth caring about, Tulisa usurping Cheryl as the nation’s spiky sweetheart, and Kelly performing the Dannii role of sweet positivity. But there has to be uncertainty about how this will play out – especially with constant rumours of a return for Simon and/or Cheryl in some kind of uber-judge capacity.

It is rumoured that, as last year, we will have 16 finalists instead of 12. We very much hope not, because it played havoc with betting strategies last year when we never knew until the last moment whether we were looking at a single or a double elimination.

More generally, we assume there must be a lot of new blood in the upper echelons of the show’s production this year. If we were Simon Cowell, we would have wanted to headhunt the top talent to work on launching the US show. And if that indeed is what has happened, we could well be noticing more fresh ideas with the UK show – or, perhaps, some signs of inexperience.

It’s certainly been possible to wonder, over the last year, whether these shows are losing their touch a little. First we had the failure of One Direction to get anywhere close to winning last year’s X Factor. Then the other big Cowell show, Britain’s Got Talent, was won by Jai McDowell instead of Ronan Parke. And whatever was supposed to have been achieved with Cheryl’s brief stint on the US judging panel, it’s hard to believe that the story didn’t escape the leash a little.

Still, it should be a fun ride, and we are looking forward to your help in decoding what we see on our screens. Please post your theories, thoughts and observations below – they make this site what it is.

9 comments to X Factor 2011: What’s the plan?

  • EM

    Great to have you back and raising the points that matter!

    Some random observations…

    1. New production team and new judges means they *should* keep things simple. That means predictable roles, Gary doing the males, Tulisa doing the girls, Kelly on the overs and Louis on the groups. Groups have proved problematic for X Factor so expect all effort and energy to go on soloists.

    2. The most predictable trend of X Factor is that the novelty acts (Wagner, Jedward etc) and love to hate acts (Katie Waissel, Cher, Daniel) will never win but get backed to shorter odds than they ever deserve. Lay em when you spot their market peaking.

    3. Current musical styles are very uptempo and urban. Look out for producers trying to capitalise on this. If a bloke can sing and rap well he’ll be treated like gold!

    4. History shows not winning but coming top 3 or 4 is no barrier to commercial success. In fact winning can be a poisoned chalice. I’m not sure the plan A theory will hold as strong this year. Watch for them trying to push 3 or 4 acts that satisfy different demographics. This could well be your top 5, rounded out by a novelty or love to hate act.

    5. I’ll bet you see the winner on Saturday night. Last decent singer put through to bootcamp on Saturday’s show will be in the top 3.

    6. Keep and eye on polls with decent sample sizes such as on the Digital Spy forums. They’re not infallible but a good indicator.

    Enjoy it

  • Andrew

    All great points. Especially 4 – it has also occurred to me to wonder if we might just not see a Plan A at all this year. If I were the producers I’d be more concerned with bedding in the new judges and generally keeping the train on the tracks sans Cowell than with who wins it. Especially with Cher adding to the evidence that, as you say, you appear to have at least as much chance of post-show commercial success from 2nd-4th (6th if we count Jedward) as 1st.

  • Kev

    My main worry for 2011 is the liquidity. Last year was the best we have had on the outright when you could make a big move midweek although the eviction markets were still a bit gash. This year with even more people being affected by the cuntish Betfair Premium Charge I fear it won’t be the same.

    I’ll be trying to set up my book on betdaq as I am obviously not good enough to be able to justify a 50% charge. I have to hope others will follow for the 2.5% commission.

    Are you affected, Daniel?

    • Daniel

      Hi Kev, and thanks for your input. The premium charge on Betfair applies to those with a profit of over 250K on the exchange. I am not affected, yet. I reckon the small number who are may mainly come from those who trade very large sums in-play on events such as tennis or racing.

      I am hoping that liquidity on the likes of XF is not affected, because as you say, we need more of this, not less, especially in the elimination market. I am keeping a watching brief on how it pans out, but your concerns and suggestions seem sensible to me.

  • Adam

    What about Big Brother? Surely Jedward to win at 3/1 is free money?!

    • Andrew

      I’d also expected them to be a fair bit shorter than that – haven’t watched enough CBB to be confident, though. Presumably the main danger is that they’re famous enough not to be perceived to need the win, which makes them vulnerable to someone less well-known emerging from the pack with a “journey”.

  • I have just taken some 16/1 Janet Devlin with Coral simply because there was footage of her home town in N Ire on the show (but not any other act). You’d laugh at Coral price now – evens – seriously evens to win xfactor!

    • Daniel

      Hi Mike, we’ve had a day for the dust to settle and 5/1 is the current best price on Janet Devlin. Early days, of course, but you can definitely be happy with bagging the 16/1. I’ll be writing about her audition and the others we saw by midweek when we can assess tabloid traction and rumour too.

  • EM

    If you can find the markets…

    Lay Janet Devlin for the win. She WON’T win, very one dimensional, i don’t think she’ll have the legs to go all the way.

    By the same token she’s good for the top 5 (especially if they went to the trouble of filming her at home!) so if you can find a market for that take it.

    Kitty is this year’s Katie – didn’t even change the name much. Set up as a love-to-hate type. Tabloids this morning prove she’s got a story. Won’t win. Lay!!

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