7 December 2012 4:02 PM, PST | The Guardian - TV News | See recent The Guardian - TV News news »

Viewing figures for show fall by 2 million as trio head for final showdown in this year's competition

There comes a time when every television programme has to face the music: and having lost 6 million viewers in just two years, The X Factor, with no Simon Cowell in sight, heads towards its final weekend of shows in front of 10,000 people in Manchester with people asking for the first time whether the format is reaching the beginning of the end.

Jahmene Douglas, the bookies' favourite, James Arthur and underdog Christopher Maloney are the three men battling it out for that "£1m record contract", but their battle of the ballads has failed to excite the public. X Factor's ratings are down 2 million on last year, when Little Mix won, with an average audience in this, the ninth season, of 8.9 million.

More worryingly still for ITV, the slump is more severe when compared »

- Dan Sabbagh, Mark Sweney

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