Why we think The Risk will not win the X Factor

We are kicking ourselves a bit about The Risk. Regular readers of Sofabet will know that when our commenter Judge’s excellent spoiler site first revealed the presence at judges’ houses of a boyband featuring Derry Mensah, we started speculating rather wildly about this potentially being Tulisa’s best hope. We couldn’t imagine that producers would want Tulisa to be embarrassed by the traditional weakness of the groups category, so we thought they must have something in mind for her – something, presumably, with an urban edge.

And yet, when bootcamp saw The Risk unveiled, they barely got any screentime. Nu Vibe seemed much the more favoured of the manufactured groups. Though bookies initially priced up The Risk at 25/1 – a price we would have gladly taken if they had featured in lists before bootcamp – we weren’t tempted.

Judges’ houses did nothing to change our minds. When news first leaked that Charlie from The Keys had been drafted into the group, we wrote: “We expect producers to milk Charlie’s transfer for all it’s worth – if there are no tearful scenes as he agonises about the prospect of leaving behind his disappointed bandmates to take up this opportunity, before graciously being given their blessing, we shall feel most let down.”

Well, there were no such scenes. Instead we simply saw Charlie delightedly leaping into a swimming pool. Disappointed former bandmates? What disappointed former bandmates? It did not look good.

On the basis that two boybands is one too many, we even had The Risk down as our first group out in our pre-twist 1-16 prediction article. In commenter Dug’s rather brilliant description in his own 1-16 prediction, The Risk looked like “the boat in the thought problem that gets replaced bit by bit with new parts whilst the parts taken away are mended and eventually rebuilt into a new ship. Which is the ship?”

As it turned out on Saturday, though, the ship floated. In a remarkable turnaround from their previously more favourable edits, Nu Vibe’s pre-performance VT referenced tabloid hints that they were squabbling like ferrets in a sack, while The Risk were shown bonding through a game of football. Nu Vibe were lumbered with much the worse song – in commenter Matt’s description, “basically a shouty dance track whereas The Risk got the wonderful Plan B”.

There’s no getting away from it. The Risk were very good, and it was no surprise to see their odds slashed to a fifth of the 25/1 we hadn’t been tempted by at bootcamp.

So why do we think they probably won’t win? It comes back to three arguments we developed at more length in our 2010 review article analysing what went wrong with One Direction and asking what would have to happen for a group ever to win this show. Notably, that “groups who appear to be genuinely close off camera seem to appeal more to the voting public”. Four out of seven seasons of the X Factor have seen siblings emerge as the top group (Journey South, The MacDonald Bros, Same Difference, Jedward), while second-placed JLS came across as having been genuinely good friends before the show.

Pre-show closeness is not a hurdle cleared by any of the three remaining groups after the irksome dismissal of 2 Shoes on Sunday night. We are not convinced that any number of footballing VTs will persuade the voting public that, with The Risk, they are watching a heartwarming tale of friends succeeding together. It became something of a running joke on Sofabet last year that Louis kept yelling “you’ve gelled as friends” at One Direction, but ultimately voters didn’t buy it.

Secondly, manufactured groups are composed of soloists who have been rejected, which does not establish them as winners in the public subconscious. In the case of The Risk, this is arguably a double problem as they have been rejected twice.

Finally, there is no regional base for manufactured groups such as The Risk, something which became a problem for One Direction in the final when Doncaster was rather randomly designated as their base for the purpose of gathering a cheering hometown crowd.

Having said all that, there are four reasons to think The Risk might actually be in a better position than One Direction. First, and not least, they appear to be considerably better than One Direction. Their performance of ‘Plan B’ on Saturday surpassed anything Cowell’s boys delivered in the lives last year.

Second, although they have no regional base, in Andrew Merry they do have the only Scot in the competition after Jade Richards failed to make it past judges’ houses. We expect one of Louis’s trademark shameless “I want everyone in Scotland to pick up the phone and vote” appeals at some point.

Third, in the now very likely looking event that they end up as Tulisa’s last group standing, they will presumably start to pick up some votes from viewers who like Tulisa – especially as they are being portrayed as Tulisa’s pet project. We very much doubt that anybody voted for One Direction because they like Simon Cowell.

Indeed, plenty of people probably didn’t vote for them because they wanted to stick two fingers up at Simon Cowell. Which is our fourth point – one risk The Risk will not face is that of a backlash against heavy-handed favouritism.

Add it all together, and we would not be at all surprised to see The Risk in the final three or even the final two. But winning will, we reckon, be just about a leap too far. The fact that no group has yet won this competition suggests that when push comes to shove the voting public prefer to bestow joy on a single individual, perhaps because their “journeys” are easier to empathise with. It will take something really special to break the group hoodoo, and we are not yet convinced that The Risk are special enough.

Disagree? Do let us know below.

28 comments to Why we think The Risk will not win the X Factor

  • tpfkar

    I can’t disagree with anything there. In fact I wonder if that was the plan all along. Featuring them heavily at judges house would have shown how cobbled together they were.

    Instead, go light on coverage until the final line-up is in place, and help them to storm week 1 (when there’s no chance of them going out in a public vote.) So perhaps they are late starters rather than slow-burners.

    Still annoyed about 2 Shoes though!

    • Andrew

      You and me both!

      You could well be right about it having been the plan all along, though I equally find it plausible that they may have switched horses in the last few days if they saw evidence in rehearsals that Nu Vibe weren’t working as well as they’d hoped and The Risk were working better.

      By the way, another thought about the very interesting observation you made on the last thread, that the twist has put producers in a more knowledgeable situation about the final 12 before the public start to vote. Another reason for this is that they will presumably know the iTunes download figures from Saturday, and will presumably have learned from last year about how these correlate (if at all) to phone votes.

      • Boki

        Can’t say much about this except the four reasons you mentioned in favor to them look strong to me, strong enough to avoid a lay.

        Btw how can WE get the iTunes figures? I looked on uk charts but found nothing (except Matt’s new single)… or maybe the figures are too low to be on top100.

        • Andrew

          Hi Boki, I think they deliberately don’t make them public for the same reason they don’t reveal the votes until after the series has finished, i.e. it would dissuade people from voting if it was obvious that one act was doing best week after week.

        • Donald

          iTunes charts unreliable in every way I reckon. There is also a practise known as “gifting” which is meant to be to give a track as a gift. Open to all types of …. So would say thread with care if using as reference.

  • Dug

    Saturday night was a complete slap in the face with regards to groups. I feel rather foolish for having predicted The Risk in bottom position when they are now so clearly the strongest band. Definitely still finding my footing in this speculation malarky. Having said that, I don’t believe there was any clue before Saturday night that would have pointed to The Risk so clearly outperforming Nu Vibe (who were, to put it bluntly, about as harmonic as a cat going under a combine harvester). I’m now expecting a bottom two of Kitty VS either Rhythmix/Johnny/Sami with Kitty being saved. Depending on song choice, I feel it might be Sami to go. If they give her anything as karaoke as ‘Free’ for a second week running then she’s a gonner. If they give her a nice Mary Byrne number she’ll be safe and it’s goodbye to Johnny or Rhythmix. Has anyone else been pondering the possibility of Johnny appearing from the dry ice as his drag persona? I’m waiting for a VT with comments about ‘Seeing a whole different side to Johnny this week’

    • Dug

      And I am now reforming my prediction before the first public vote (it seems only fair to have another bite at the apple, considering things were not as they seemed). I’m going for:

      1. Craig
      2. Janet
      3. The Risk
      4. Marcus
      5. Frankie
      6. Sophie
      7. Kitty
      8. Nu Vibe
      9. Misha
      10. Johnny
      11. Rhythmix
      12. Sami

    • Andrew

      Yup, I’m not feeling like we missed any obvious signs that Nu Vibe were about to be stitched up in the VTs and the song choice.

      I’m intrigued to know what you see in Craig other than him being less smiley than Marcus, less annoying than Janet and Frankie, and less people than The Risk? We’re considering Craig’s chances in the next post 🙂

      Wonder if Johnny would have time to change into his drag persona for a singoff, when he finds himself in one? I suppose he might do, if the costume’s in the wings and they put him on second.

      • Dug

        It’s just playful speculation at the moment. I’m not in any way ready to put my money where my mouth is with regards to Craig. I’ve changed my mind about Janet so many times since her audition. She’s either an unstoppable force or a joke that will wear thin. I imagine that she will fail to surprise and that her voting base might get a little complacent in later weeks. I fear that Marcus will suffer the curse of being too versatile and not distinctive enough. Craig, on the other hand, has impressed the judges more with each performance and still seems not to have gone for it 100%. The weight loss aspect of the story will appeal to the public and make for a nice accompaniment to his transformation from biscuit-packing jester to soulful troubadour. His voice is, like Janet’s, is on trend halfway between Adele and something folkier and everyone likes something a bit ‘authentic’ don’t they?

        In simple terms, without being particularly analytical, I just have to agree with you that The Risk don’t seem ‘special enough’ to be the first group to win. Yes, they have a bit of JLS in them but I feel they have a lot more FYD!

  • Simon "le chat"

    I can see the Risk doing well if the producers are behind them. However the boy-band market is saturated at the moment with JLS and One Direction and there isn’t enough spare girlpower out there to boot either The Risk or Nuvibe home.
    MARCUS remains the bet of the year for me to be top boy – generally 11/4 which in a three horse race against two one trick ponies is an astonishing gift to anyone with an ear who likes a punt. I’ve already explained why Frianky cannot win, he’s not good enough or versetile enough and his appeal will fade pretty quickly when the public realise he cant actually sing very well and get bored of his panting monovote vocals. Craig was very good on saturday but it is a very good song – he will also be seen to lose loads of weight as the series goes on but while he has a falsetto, he doesn’t have the stardust or general appeal that MARCUS has. I genuinely believe MARCUS is a shoe in for the last three and with so many strings to his bow I still very much fancy him to win it at an extraordinarily generous 16/1 with Corals. Just wait for the saturday live finals and see for yourselves how good this kid actually is – he did brilliantly with a very hard song last weekend- wait until he get’s something more universally appealing and then watch his odds tumble, tumble, tumble!

  • bob

    What do we think the producers try to acheieve from their manipulation? Does the show make most money from advertising, in which case they will want to get the most viewing figures, the success of the winner, in which case they want a creditable winner, the votes, the tour, or what?

    • Andrew

      It’s a great question. Their behaviour suggests they care more about viewing figures in the first 7-8 weeks and the credibility of winner/finalists in the last 2-3 weeks. Have always thought the tour is a bit of a red herring as they can ultimately decide to take whoever they like regardless of what the finishing order is.

      But I have no idea of their income breakdown in terms of ads vs phone vote vs post-show activities. Would love to know, if anyone can enlighten us.

      • Henry VIII

        I remember seeing a company’s annual report where they had paid £90,000 for each single prime time ad. This article says that ITV charged between £200,000 and £250,000 for an ad in the X Factor final and that was twice normal rates:

        The press were saying that ITV lost £200,000 for not having phone voting this weekend. I don’t know how accurate that is but it seems that phone vote revenue is a small fraction of the revenue from ads.

        • Henry VIII

          * they said Cowell lost the money, not ITV. (That revenue stream may be entirely his plus a huge production fee and ITV get the ad money – just guessing).

        • Andrew

          Thanks Henry. Found another story stating that last season there were 15,488,019 votes cast, for £5m revenue http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2010/dec/13/x-factor-phone-votes
          Phone vote revenue clearly dwarfted by ad revenue, then.

          As an aside, by comparing the £5m series figure with that £200,000 one, we can deduce that only 4% of the votes for the whole series are cast in the first show – presumably it builds week on week towards the final. By my calculations, this means that about 600,000 votes were cast in the first show last year. And that Katie Waissel escaped automatic elimination by under 1200 votes (she got 1.55%, Nicolo got 1.36%).

          What I haven’t been able to find is any indication of how much the show makes from acts’ post-show activities, and how this compares to ad revenue.

  • malcolm

    Twitter gain since Sunday (and current total)

    Janet 18K (83K)
    Marcus 24K (43K) 3rd highest gain
    Frankie 37K (167K) highest gain
    Misha 10K (24K)
    Nu Vibe 6K (24K)
    Craig 28K (45K) 2nd highest gain
    Rhythmix 3.2K (13K)
    The Risk 9K (28K)
    Sami 3.2K (14K)
    Sophie 7.6K (17K)
    Kitty 3.4K (13K)
    Johnny 1.3K (7K)

    I think Janet has lost some of her early ground. Because she started as the favourite anything less than perfection each week will see her slip a bit and others will benefit. Craig definately gained the most from Saturdays show, top on You Tube and suddenly a contender.
    I don’t rate Frankies singing much, and many seem to agree, but as the weeks progress if he continues to pick up followers and never appears in the bottom 2 then I’ll begin to believe that Twitter is a useful barometer of opinion.

    • Andrew

      Hi Malcolm, Thanks very much for these. I’m curious – not being much of a Twitterphile, could any of this be explained by some acts being more entertaining than others in what they tweet about? Or are all their feeds of a comparable level of erudition and wit, so we can see it as a barometer of interest in them as acts rather than as tweeters? (Of course, as you say, we still then have to wonder to what extent interest translates into votes).

  • Malcolm

    Andy, my knowledge is very superficial but along with You Tube I thought I’d follow a few things this year, including Twitter to try and gauge support and interest in acts.
    I don’t think any of the acts tweet anything that interesting, lots of short messages thanking people for support etc. I do think twitter is something that has increased massively in the last year as a a way of communicating and spreading news/ gossip. If you are bothered enough to follow someone on twitter are you likely to vote for them? I think it will be a very good way of building support and fan base, especially with younger people. . Come the public vote the contestants will be able to tweet their followers and beg for votes… Will that have an effect? Maybe. But probably for acts with a younger fanbase where twitter is an established part of their life. Johnny and Sami will struggle with this and despite loads of tweeting kitty hasn’t much of a following either.
    Frankies number of followers is massive compared to the others, I’m curious now to see how he does once the voting starts , his performances and interest in him from judges houses onwards suggest he is vulnerable to appearing in the bottom 2 at some point. If he never appears in the bottom 2 then I will think that there is a twitter effect and maybe it can carry him all the way – mostly on the back of teenage girls who tweet!
    There are so many ways of looking at x factor for clues (which I am finding out), this one might prove to be red herring, my only successful bet this year was after studying judges comments between Amelia and Sophie. Everything that I had picked up from this site about how the programme works rung true… And worked.

  • Malcolm

    Andrew, sorry, I changed your name in my reply

    • Andrew

      No worries, Malcolm, I’ve been called worse 🙂

      You may also be interested in this site which I just came across, tracking volume and positivity/negativity of tweets about each act
      No idea how it’s done, and it’s new this year so there’s no track record to go on, but it looks like one to keep an eye on.

      What we really need to know is how Twitter-using demographics compare to XF-voting demographics, and as far as I’m aware nobody has ever established the latter but we assume it’s less teen-centric. Not sure if you were following Nick’s comments here last year, eg
      – he was trying to track volumes of social media activity and had One Direction doing much better on Twitter than in the votes, and vice versa for the likes of Mary Byrne. So there is hope for the non Frankie fans among us.

      Nicely done on Amelia and Sophie.

  • Malcolm

    Thanks for the info

  • Hi guys, I’m running the anlytk.wordpress.com blog. Happy to chat about it if someone wants a heads up on what it is and why I’m doing it.

    • Andrew

      Hi Toby, and welcome! Have sent you an email. Looking forward to learning more – and seeing what the stats look like for this weekend!

    • mark

      Good site, useful reading 🙂

    • mark

      Hi Toby,

      Just wondering, how do you collect all this twitter data for the various shows..have you written some kind of script that checks twitter for certain #hashtags and then got two lists of words negative and positive and create a count based on those?


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