Record numbers tune into X Factor

The X Factor final attracted a record audience of almost 20 million viewers last night, ITV said.

The broadcaster said that the series notched up the biggest non-sport audience on any channel since 2001.

A peak of 19.4 million (a 60% share of UK TV viewers) tuned into see Matt Cardle take this year's crown.

The two-hour show, which kicked off at 7.30pm, was seen by an average of 17.2 million, a 55% share.

Both figures are records for the X Factor, which this year has been dogged by controversy.

The series has been in the headlines since Cheryl Cole decided to drop Gamu Nhengu, who was facing deportation to Zimbabwe, for the live shows.

Recent controversies included the revelation that contestant Katie Waissel's grandmother was working for an online escort agency, and the news that watchdog Ofcom was investigating the show for promoting guest acts' downloads.

The previous X Factor record - a 19.1 million peak and 15.5 million average - was achieved last year. ITV said last night's show was the biggest non-sport audience since 2001, when the Only Fools And Horses Christmas Day special attracted around 21 million on BBC1 in the UK.

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