Simon Cowell (left) and Ryan Seacrest
Jason LaVeris/Getty, Frazer Harrison/Getty
09/22/2011 at 12:00 PM EDT
The X Factor
is finally here!
And after a premiere night
that included wild, wacky and wonderful auditions – and an unpopular switcheroo
on the judges' panel – the ratings are also in.
More than 12 million viewers tuned in to watch the premiere of The X Factor
Wednesday night, which is a lot less than the more than 26 million who tuned into see Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez
on the season 10 premiere of American Idol
in January. Still, Wednesday's debut was Fox's biggest for a fall series in five years, the network said.
It may be unfair to compare a brand new show's first episode to an established ratings giant like Idol
, which has been around since Kelly Clarkson
and Carrie Underwood
were unknowns. However, Simon Cowell
himself suggested at Fox's press tour in August that his new show would do better than his old show. And he reportedly told The Hollywood Reporter
that anything less than 20 million viewers would be a "disappointment."
But Mike Darnell, Fox's head of alternative programming, isn't disappointed one bit. "We never expected it to be American Idol
numbers," he tells PEOPLE. "American Idol
is a phenomenon. Those expectations were crazy. Internally, these numbers were very good. I'm relieved this morning ... If this was any other show, it would be considered a hit."
But forget the ratings and what Simon and others say – tell us what you
think: Does The X Factor
, with its $5 million recording contract prize, humongous stage and the return of Paula Abdul
, have what it takes to be better than Ryan Seacrest
and American Idol
? Time will only tell as far as the numbers go, but you can vote now below:
Reporting by KEVIN O'DONNELL