An estimated 20m people tuned in to watch the final of Simon Cowell’s talent show, with ITV charging close to £250,000 for a 30 second advertising slot.
Firms including Lloyds Banking Group, Chanel and Sainsbury’s bought the premium slots.
The last entertainment show to hit the elusive 20m audience figure was the Christmas come-back episode of Only Fools and Horses and Cowell’s achievement is all the more impressive given the fragmentation of TV audiences in recent years.
The final of the most popular ever X Factor series comes just a week after the 50th anniversary of its smash-hit soap opera Coronation Street. To mark the occasion the show’s bosses crashed a tram into the street, drawing in 14m viewers and persuading advertisers to hand over £100,000 for a 30 second slot.
ITV executives have been quick to play down the significance of the bumper period, calling it a “good start” but saying there is plenty of work to be done before the station is back on firm ground. Its advertising revenues have jumped 14 per cent this year but dropped nine per cent the year before. Chief executive Adam Crozier is attempting to reduce the firm’s reliance on core advertising.