X Factor: Are there patterns in the order acts are announced safe?

“In no particular order” – these are words we hear emphasised by Dermot every Sunday as he calls out the acts who are safe. But “in no particular order” is not an exact synonym for “in completely random order”. It would be odd if programme makers did not, at the very least, choose the order of announcement in such a way as to heighten tension.

The question is whether tension is the only aim here, or can we gain any clues as to the voting order or producers’ intentions from the order in which acts are announced safe? Sofabet commenter Shoulders thinks so, explaining “I think the producers use all tactics available to steer the show in the direction they want”. But is the order of announcing acts safe really one of those tactics?

With thanks to the Bitch Factor archive section, we have compiled a list of the order in which acts have been announced safe for the last three seasons, the only ones for which the show has released voting statistics, along with their ranking in the voting order among the safe acts (in paretheses after the acts’ names, which are listed in the order in which they were called safe). Here they are:

2010 Week 1 (13 acts safe)

Treyc (8/13)
John (9/13)
Aiden (5/13)
Diva Fever (10/13) [eliminated next]
Cher (3/13)
Storm (13/13) [eliminated next]
Belle Amie (11/13) [in next singoff]
Matt (2/13)
Wagner (12/13)
Rebecca (6/13)
Mary (1/13)
One Direction (4/13)
Paije (7/13) [6 weeks to elimination]

2010 Week 2 (11 acts safe)

Katie (8/11)
John (7/11) [eliminated next]
Matt (1/11)
Rebecca (5/11)
One Direction (3/11)
Mary (2/11)
Cher (6/11)
Paije (9/11)
Treyc (10/11) [in next singoff]
Wagner (11/11)
Aiden (4/11) [4 weeks to elimination]

2010 Week 3 (10 acts safe)

Cher (4/10)
Aiden (6/10)
Wagner (9/10)
Katie (8/10) [in next singoff]
One Direction (3/10)
Rebecca (5/10)
Belle Amie (10/10) [eliminated next]
Matt (1/10)
Mary (2/10)
Paije (7/10) [4 weeks to elimination]

2010 Week 4 (9 acts safe)

Paije (7/9)
Cher (2/9)
Aiden (6/9)
Wagner (8/9)
One Direction (4/9)
Matt (1/9)
Rebecca (5/9)
Mary (3/9)
Treyc (9/9) [eliminated next]

2010 Week 5 (8 acts safe)

Aiden (6/8) [eliminated next]
Rebecca (2/8)
Matt (1/8)
One Direction (3/8)
Paije (7/8)
Cher (5/8)
Wagner (8/8)
Mary (4/8) [4 weeks to elimination]

2010 Week 6 (7 acts safe)

Cher (5/7) [in next singoff]
Matt (1/7)
Rebecca (2/7)
One Direction (3/7)
Wagner (7/7)
Mary (4/7)
Paije (6/7) [eliminated next]

2010 Week 7 (6 acts safe)

Katie (2/7) [eliminated next]
One Direction (4/7)
Rebecca (3/7)
Matt (1/7)
Mary (5/7) [in next singoff]
Wagner (6/7) [eliminated next]

2010 Week 8 (4 acts safe)

Rebecca (2/5)
Matt (1/5)
Cher (3/5)
One Direction (4/5) [2 weeks to elimination]

2010 Week 9 (3 acts safe)

One Direction (3/3) [finished 3rd]
Rebecca (2/3) [finished 2nd]
Matt (1/3) [finished 1st]

2009 Week 1 (10 acts safe)

Jedward (8/10)
Lucie (4/10)
Lloyd (6/10)
Jamie (5/10)
Rikki (10/10) [eliminated next]
Stacey (2/10)
Danyl (1/10)
Joe (3/10)
Miss Frank (9/10)
Olly (7/10) [9 weeks to elimination]

2009 Week 2 (9 acts safe)

Olly (5/9)
Miss Frank (9/9) [eliminated next]
Joe (4/9)
Danyl (7/9) [in next singoff]
Lucie (6/9)
Jamie (3/9)
Stacey (1/9)
Lloyd (2/9)
Jedward (8/9) [5 weeks to elimination]

2009 Week 3 (8 acts safe)

Stacey (5/8)
Olly (7/8)
Rachel (1/8) [eliminated next]
Joe (2/8)
Lucie (3/8)
Jedward (6/8)
Jamie (4/8)
Lloyd (8/8) [5 weeks to elimination] [in next singoff]

2009 Week 4 (7 acts safe)

Joe (3/7)
Olly (2/7)
Lucie (7/7) [eliminated next]
Jamie (4/7)
Stacey (5/7)
Danyl (1/7)
Jedward (6/7) [3 weeks to elimination] [in next singoff]

2009 Week 5 (6 acts safe)

Joe (2/6)
Olly (3/6)
Stacey (5/6)
Lloyd (4/6) [in next singoff]
Danyl (1/6)
Jamie (6/6) [eliminated next]

2009 Week 6 (5 acts safe)

Joe (2/5)
Danyl (3/5)
Stacey (1/5)
Olly (5/5) [in next singoff]
Jedward (4/5) [eliminated next]

2009 Week 7 (4 acts safe)

Stacey (2/4)
Joe (1/4)
Danyl (3/4)
Lloyd (4/4) [eliminated next]

2009 Week 8 (4 acts safe)

Stacey (2/4)
Joe (1/4)
Danyl (4/4) [eliminated next]
Olly (3/4)

2009 Week 9 (3 acts safe)

Olly (2/3)
Joe (1/3)
Stacey (3/3)

2008 Week 1 (10 acts safe)

JLS (7/10)
Diana (4/10)
Rachel (8/10)
Austin (9/10)
Ruth (10/10) [in next singoff]
Laura (3/10)
Daniel (5/10)
Eoghan (1/10)
Alexandra (6/10)
Scott (2/10) [2 weeks to elimination]

2008 Week 2 (9 acts safe)

JLS (3/9)
Rachel (8/9)
Diana (2/9)
Scott (9/9) [eliminated next]
Laura (4/9)
Eoghan (1/9)
Daniel (6/9) [in next singoff]
Alexandra (7/9)
Austin (5/9) [2 weeks to elimination]

2008 Week 3 (8 acts safe)

Eoghan (1/8)
Alexandra (6/8)
Ruth (5/8)
JLS (4/8)
Rachel (3/8) [in next singoff]
Diana (2/8)
Laura (7/8)
Austin (8/8) [eliminated next]

2008 Week 4 (7 acts safe)

Daniel (4/7)
Alexandra (6/7)
Eoghan (1/7)
JLS (2/7)
Diana (3/7)
Ruth (5/7) [in next singoff]
Laura (7/7) [eliminated next]

2008 Week 5 (5 acts safe)

Rachel (5/5) [in next singoff]
JLS (4/5)
Alexandra (2/5)
Eoghan (1/5)
Daniel (3/5) [eliminated next]

2008 Week 6 (5 acts safe)

Diana (1/5)
JLS (5/5) [in next singoff]
Ruth (3/5)
Alexandra (4/5)
Eoghan (2/5) [4 weeks to elimination]

2008 Week 7 (4 acts safe)

Ruth (3/4) [eliminated next]
Eoghan (1/4)
Diana (2/4)
Alexandra (4/4) [eventual winner]

2008 Week 8 (4 acts safe)

JLS (2/4)
Alexandra (1/4)
Diana (4/4) [eliminated next]
Eoghan (3/4) [2 weeks to elimination]

2008 Week 9 (3 acts safe)

JLS (1/3) [finished 2nd]
Alexandra (2/3) [finished 1st]
Eoghan (3/3) [finished 3rd]

What can we learn? Frankly, in our reading of it, not a great deal. But here are four observations.

1. From weeks 4-7, the last act called is in danger next week

In weeks 4, 5, 6 and 7, over three series, a remarkable 8 out of the 12 acts who were last to be called safe found themselves being eliminated the very next week. This relationship doesn’t hold for weeks 1-3 (1 from 9 were eliminated the following week), or weeks 8-9 (1 from 6 were next out).

Coincidence? Maybe. But it does make a certain amount of dramatic sense. If you’re looking to heighten tension, you would want the last act safe to be someone the audience could imagine being in the bottom two. In the first three weeks, the perceived pecking order is quite fluid. In the last couple of weeks, it becomes plausible to imagine even the strongest-looking act in danger. But in the middle of the series, there are not so many obviously weak survivors to choose from.

2. The first and last acts called are neither favoured nor disfavoured by producers

Along with Sofabet commenter Ronnie, we have occasionally wondered whether it might be a small help to an act to be the last one called safe. It could put the wind up the act’s supporters, leading to a small boost the following week – a kind of “mini sympathy bounce”, as Ronnie calls it.

Looking at the lists, however, does not seem to bear this theory out. Some of the last acts called safe were ones the producers would have wanted to boost the following week (Wagner, One Direction, Jedward) and some were ones they wouldn’t (Paije, Treyc, Jamie Archer).

The flipside of this theory, in Ronnie’s words, is that “on the other hand, by announcing someone safe first, people will think they are as safe as houses and getting loads of votes which could have a negative affect their vote the following week”. Again, it makes sense, but the lists don’t seem to bear the theory out. Sometimes the first act called safe is someone whose vote producers would have wanted to depress (Paije, Daniel Evans) and sometimes it’s not (Katie, Jedward).

It can’t have much of an effect on the following week’s vote, if at all.

3. Vote-toppers are not usually called first

In 2010 and 2009, the act which topped that week’s vote was never the first act called safe. Indeed, for the first six weeks of 2010, and the first three weeks of 2009, the first act called safe wasn’t in the top three of the vote.

But this may not mean much. Go back to 2008 and that week’s vote-topper was called first in weeks 3, 6 and 9. And from week 5 onwards in 2010, the first act called safe was 2nd in that week’s public vote. It doesn’t seem like a pattern to rely on.

4. The “first act to be called safe” market is a crapshoot

We at Sofabet have never looked seriously at the “first act to be called safe” market which some bookies price up, assuming there would not be much to be learned from the formbook. Now that we’ve researched the form, our assumption seems to be confirmed. Sometimes the first act called safe is one who would obviously have been expected to go through, sometimes it’s one who had been thought to be in danger of the singoff, and sometimes it’s a midfielder. There doesn’t seem to be a pattern here.

For what it’s worth, the order in which acts were called safe in 2011’s first public vote was: The Risk, Janet, Craig, Johnny, Misha B, Sami, Rhythmix, Sophie, Kitty, Marcus. In the second vote: Marcus, Misha, Johnny, Rhythmix, Janet, Craig, Sophie, Frankie, The Risk.

What are your observations from this data? Are you seeing anything we’ve missed? Please share your thoughts in the comments box below.

26 comments to X Factor: Are there patterns in the order acts are announced safe?

  • Oscar Diggs

    For what it’s worth, the order in which acts were called safe in 2011′s first public vote was: The Risk, Janet, Craig, Johnny, Misha B, Sami, Rhythmix, Sophie, Kitty, Marcus. In the second vote: Marcus, Misha, Johnny, Rhythmix, Janet, Craig, Sophie, Frankie, The Risk.

    It isn’t that unlikely that these 2 acts are finalists – I’ve just had a small punt on a ‘straight forecast’ at Ladbrokes – The Risk/Marcus 33/1, Marcus/The Risk 50/1.

    Thought provoking article, thank you.

  • Stableboyuk

    Loving your post at the moment and the last two are “top drawer” in quality!

    However, quality isn’t a word I’d use with this years XF crop barring Misha B….she is way ahead of the other contestants with regards being A STAR and she is her only enemy at the moment. Will bullygate ruin her chances? There is a lot of yes she said it and no she didn’t (even from those that she is supposed to have said it to). I think 7’s will look very generous in a few weeks time if she can just concentrate on singing! Write her off at your own risk!

    Anyway, once again…..THIS IS A FANTASTIC AND INFORMATIVE SITE and you guys should give yourselves a pat on the back!

  • bob

    Any mathematicians give me a rough idea of the odds of Matt being announced first eight weeks in a row?! No particular order my arse! Now that’s informative commentary.

    • Daniel

      Hi Bob, the figure in brackets reflects the act’s finishing position in the public vote, which Matt did win eight times in a row. The order they were announced safe is the order in which they appear in the list, week-by-week.

  • bob

    Ah, sorry, silly me.

  • bob

    Sorry again. I’m not sure I can come back from this.

    • Daniel

      Nothing to worry about at all – this is a very friendly board. Please keep posting as and when you see fit.

    • Andrew

      Bob, don’t worry! Your comment made me realise that the original phrasing of the article was ambiguous, and I can totally see why you thought that. I’ve gone back in and added a line in parentheses now to make it clearer for future readers. Apologies from us at Sofabet!

  • Simon "le chat"

    It occurs to me that the producers make use of the running order announcing the acts safe just as much as they manipulate the actual running order.
    However while there is a pattern to the acts made to walk the plank in the “death slot” I don’t believe we can read too much into the order of safety, other than it will very week to week to heighten tension.

    For example it was tense when MARCUS, NUVIBE and FRANKIE were the only 3 left after the first week, and it was not a coincidence that MARCUS having survived and (as Dan puts it) performed “stonkingly” from the graveyatd slot should not have to endure more agony so he was announced first.

    The announcement of safety cannot manipulate votes for that week because they are already in but it does increase tension. eg FRANKIE is red hot favourite to go this week and if were announced safe early it would increase the tension on the basis that “Heck, Frankie has survived so which of the favourites is going?” – they would then leave the two most likely candidates for the chop last.

    An overall pattern? No, I don’t believe there is and it would be unwise to read too much into it when parting with coin.

  • Simon "le chat"

    It’s probably worth keeping an eye on USA X factor.
    COWELL is mentoring the girls and has put through his final 3 including 14 yr old Drew Rynieweiz saying it was possibly the easiest decision had had ever made
    No doubt there is enough room for 16 yr old Janet as well but Drew over the pond on the rails is from the same stable and no one from Syco has been raving about her as a future recordning star.
    Is Janet a worthy favourite? Perhaps- based on media stories and internet traffic certainly, but she seems fairly one dimensional to me and it remains to be seen how many others feel the same.
    I wish we had last week’s voting figures!
    There will be some reading this who do – I expect JANET was safe quite easily as were the RISK but we’ll proabably know more from the running order on Saturday.

  • Noisy

    Do you think they still want to keep Frankie in?

    I’m expecting him to come down from his sympathy bounce and be back in the bottom 2 this week but odds already reflec that.

    If they’re keen to keep him still (as I presume following changing last week to rock week to help him – though mixed feelings due to VT etc) then Sky Bet are offering 9/2 for him to be saved by the judges which seems better value.

    I could see Kitty being safe with a sympathy bounce this week and would fancy Frankie’s chances of being saved over Marcus, Sophie, Craig or Misha (assuming they’ve been stitched up in order to find themselves in bottom 2) and maybe Johnny & Rhythmix

    • mark

      I’m not sure if theyd save Frankie over Marcus..I mean realistically Frankies days are done? So would it not be better to cut their losses rather than prolong the inevitable?

      Kitty i expect a sympathy bounce

      B2 ) Craig / Rhythmix

      • Noisy

        Hi Mark,

        I think for Marcus to end up in the bottom two they’d need to have stitched him up as he’s a good performer. If they’ve done that, why would they then save him?

        Frankie they can get shot of easily but Marcus would be harder to shift as he’s far better and more likeable.

        I’ve backed Marcus to win this but am still concerned with his lack of help from the producers.

        From the start they’ve seemed to favour Janet and ditched her biggest rival Amelia (was around 2nd favourite at the time) at the first opportunity before the public could keep her safe.

        I think the biggest danger to her is if they switch horses. If the Risk pick up more Nu Vibe votes now since the member change and there’s reports of Syco having a Janet-a-like in the US show, they may try and get the group to finally win here (so proving there’s a point to the category US Idol doesn’t have)

        • Mark

          Would that matter though – the risk picking up some nu vibe voters? Vibe were less popular than the show tried to make out – I wouldn’t imagine someone to decide to support the risk just because of one member?

          The groups just aren’t good enough and I think most people can see that – people who vote I mean

          Will they apologise/ say sorry to misha ? I don’t think they will – but if they did could this trigger some kind of sympathy bounce despite not being b2 week before?

  • EM

    I’ve always thought the order was to heighten tension and suspense. Is a big name going out? Is last weeks bottom singer going out again? Will the guy the judges had a go at make it through?

    There also seems to be a mixing up of categories, it’s unusual for two boys to be called safe in a row etc. So I feel the no particular order is made for tv.d

    Lovely use of stats though guys, this series is so random we need all the help we can get!

  • shoulders

    Hi Andrew, this is another great article which has required a lot of effort. I have also thought “In no particular order” is open to interruption which does not necessarily mean it is random. I think the show has to use the last person safe before the bottom two to create tension or shock value. If you left a clear public favourite who had sung their heart out the night before in the last 3 on stage it would seem obvious they would be safe. It would have nowhere near the same guessing at home as leaving 3 acts last who all did not perform well, or for tension leaving an act that had had an unusually poor week. I think that the figures you’ve shown make it hard to show a definite pattern. What i have noticed though is that Mary was always announced near the bottom two despite performing well in the votes each week. Was this a random draw or a deliberate attempt by the producers to make her appear less popular, its too hard to tell. When i bet on One Direction to be first act safe and through to the final i did this because i felt they were the ones Simon was pushing hard for victory but the forums, media and polls did not reflect this was going to happen. I thought this was Simon trying to give the impression to viewers that first through would mean they are favourites, even if it did not translate to votes it would be also important to show them as popular as possible to increase their post show career, however reading your article it’s very difficult to see this as a pattern that is repeated.
    I think as the show goes on it will be interesting to see how the performances and judges comments relate to a place in the safe act through picking order. If it seems clear the judges have favoured an act or put down an act i think its worth watching to see what happens who the though acts are called. Marcus sang first, his best performance yet, then was called safe first, is this week the start of the producers pushing him as a contender???

    • Andrew

      Cheers, Shoulders. You may well be right with One Direction. As Euan says above, I guess there must be a lot of factors specific to a particular week (e.g. someone having an unusually good or bad week, the judges having a pop at someone) which influence who is called early or late for dramatic reasons and will not show up in a simple list of voting order.

      I was pleasantly surprised that they called Marcus first – a nice moment of charity on their part, after the poor lad blubbed on stage when left to the final three in the first vote. I was half expecting them to leave him till the final three just to see if they could make him cry again!

  • Whyalwaysme

    Probably worth pointing out that with a largely new production team this year, it is virtually impossible to know what is going on. Plus there seems to be little pattern year on year (besides 4-7 week correlation), so it’s totally plausible that while this correlation has developed a ‘golden rule’ status, the actual person/people making these decisions may be different from one year to the next. Without this knowledge of who, I think it’s dangerous to draw any substantial conclusions whatsoever.

  • Nugget

    Great article Daniel and well researched….whilst it is difficult to spot any helpful pattern it would be logical that the order the survirors are read out in is selected by the producers to create the maximum possible tension…..just exactly how they go about that and how it can help from a betting point of view remains a puzzle though.

    Whats everyones early thoughts on this weeks elimination/bottom 2?

    Although Frankie would seem the obvious choice,I just cannot bring myself to see the current price as any sort of value. I am sure they will be much better even money shots in future weeks.

    As a speculative alternative, I am thinking maybe a Sophie/Kitty or Rhythmix bottom 2 with Kitty/Rhythmix saved.


    • Nugget

      Just realised it was Andrew who wrote this. Anyway thanks to you both for a great article and website.


      • Andrew

        Thanks Nugget! And it all reflects a joint thought process anyway whoever’s name is on the article (well, the X Factor coverage does – Daniel is out on his own on Eurovision :-))

  • Simon "le chat"

    365 betting on the Boys not adding up this morning.

    Thet have top boy CRAIG at 4/6, then MARCUS 13/8 then FRANKIE 9/1

    Next boy eliminated they have FRANKIE 2/5, CRAIG 4/1 and then MARCUS 5/1

    Surely if CRAIG is favoured over MARCUS, then MARCUS shoudl be second favourite to go and not CRAIG

    I reckon its another mistake, although nowhere near as big as the 11/2 howler last week. It really is worth keeping an eye on this site- bookies can be very slack when updating odds.

  • Boki

    Great research as always, pitty there is not much info from the data although observation 1 looks promising and is the most logical one, we’ll see.

  • mark

    well that was a good read, interesting article – thanks

    ”In weeks 4, 5, 6 and 7, over three series, a remarkable 8 out of the 12 acts who were last to be called safe found themselves being eliminated the very next week. This relationship doesn’t hold for weeks 1-3 (1 from 9 were eliminated the following week), or weeks 8-9 (1 from 6 were next out).’

    So this coming week being week4 it’s worth a listen to see who is announced safe last and perhaps depending on the price have a couple of quid on that person to go next week? 8/12 seems convincing

  • Kate

    I have got the impression in the past that sometimes a bottom two act from the previous week will be called safe first. I’m not sure that this is of statistical significance; it might just be an emotional boost (for the audience as much as the act). On the other hand, if the survivor of the previous week’s bottom two isn’t the first called that’s usually (but not conclusively) a sign of trouble.

    Last Sunday we saw a variation on this when Marcus was called first. Even though he hadn’t been in the bottom two the previous week, he was visibly upset when he found himself in the final three before his name was called. Calling him first this time round looks like a conscious attempt to not put him through the same experience a second time.

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