Last year's season premiere had attracted 9.2 million average viewers in the overnight ratings, up from 8.7 million in 2012, which had been its lowest figure since 2006. Last season's debut had a peak audience of 10.3 million, up from 9.9 million in 2012.
In 2011, the show's best season launch ever reached an average audience of 11.3 million people in the overnight ratings, according to ratings consultancy Attentional. The season 7 debut in 2010, the most recent year that Cowell served on the show as a judge, had attracted an average audience of 11.1 million people, according to the firm.
The new season's launch ratings this Saturday made The X Factor the most watched show of the night on British TV by more than 4 million viewers, according to ITV.
Cowell's return as a judge on the ITV show for the first time in four years came after the singing competition's U.S. cancellation by Fox earlier this year. Since his departure, the U.K. version of the hit format has been in a ratings slump. The BBC's Strictly Come Dancing, the public broadcaster's version of Dancing With the Stars, has beaten X Factor in the ratings over the past two years.
Cowell has changed the judging panel this year, with only Louis Walsh returning. Cowell, former Spice Girls member Mel B, and former Girls Aloud member Cheryl Fernandez-Versini, formerly Cole, replaced Sharon Osbourne, Take That star Gary Barlow and former Pussycat Dolls member Nicole Scherzinger.
ITV renewed X Factor for three more seasons late last year.
The X Factor last year drew its lowest season finale ratings since 2005 with an average audience of 9.7 million.
Meanwhile, the second episode of the new season of BBC hit show Doctor Who, which this year stars Peter Capaldi in the lead role, drew 5.2 million average viewers on Saturday night. The prior week's debut by Capaldi had reached an average audience of 6.8 million.
- This article originally appeared on THR.com.