It’s confession time. As some of you may be aware, yours truly is a former odds compiler, who spent the best part of a decade working for some of the biggest betting companies in Europe. Having graduated from college instead of grown up around bookmakers and/or horses, my background was a little different to most compilers a decade ago, which led to a lot of the more “unusual” or novelty markets being sent my way. However one particular request stands out as by far as the most incorrect judgement that I’ve ever made and it probably stands up to scrutiny as one of the worst calls ever by any compiler.
My line manager noticed that Blue Square were betting on a TV programme on Channel 4 and asked me to look at it for a while, to ascertain if there was any value in offering betting on the product. I looked at the broadcast for around an hour, looked around the internet to find discussion about it and ended up coming to the conclusion that there was no way that this programme would ever catch the imagination of the public, and that any time spent betting on it would be time wasted. What was the programme? Big Brother, of course.
Fast forward a little over ten years and now novelty and TV betting is one of the biggest markets out there, to the point that the market for the X Factor winner is probably much more robust than the market for several UK race meetings. However some of the events from this season’s show have caused several viewers to call into question the integrity of the show, and those calls have reached fever pitch after Ella Henderson and James Arthur were forced into the sing off at the weekend. It’s well known that the show’s ratings have plummeted this year and presumably the number of voters has plummeted along with that. Skeptics have suggested that the ejection of one of the clear favourites was a message to the public to get involved or else anything can happen.
This columnist is neither an X factor fan nor a keen follower of conspiracy theories in general. As everyone knows, it’s always easier to suggest foul play that to accept responsibility for a bad call, so all those people who piled into Ella to win, or who backed one of the more likely suspects to be eliminated, are quite possibly jumping on the “fix” bandwagon because it’s a good way of justifying a bad bet. However neither can it be denied that this will almost certainly lead to an increase in ratings and indeed an increase in voting.
With the issue of “fix” or otherwise still resolved, look out for the following aspects in the coming weeks.
(1) Rylan, to the surprise of many, may make the final. Nobody believes that a novelty act can win, but then nobody thought that a girl band could win either, until last year. Certainly at the odds on offer, he’s not a lay.
(2) Union J, if the producers want them to, may also make the final, but they cannot win. The winner disappears off the scene for nine-ten months until the following series, when they are part of the promotion for the new series. If they are to make a career, they have to be seen and heard immediately, while they are remembered and while they can still ride the coat-tails of the boyband revival that is happening on account of One Direction. Remember here that even if the voting is not a fix, these lads are more susceptible to how they are portrayed than any other act. A younger vote is a more fickle vote.
(3) Chris Moloney is popular with the voters, but he has no chance whatsoever of a recording career. If the show is a fix, he may not make the final. If the show is genuine, he hits the X factor demographic beautifully (voters are a lot older than is often imagined. Women aged 30-50 are the key demographic here) and so he will be in the final, though getting over the line may be tough when the “quality” vote isn’t split. However betting of 5/6 about him finishing in the top 3 stands out.
(4) Jahmene has the sob story and he will be easy to package. He is the most likely winner right now, regardless of fix or otherwise. In the longer term, it’s difficult to see what he brings to a crowded marketplace.
(5) James Arthur, while undoubtedly offering the most creativity and perhaps the most long term potential as a recording artist, may not be the easy fit for Simon Cowell that is required. Equally, while there may be a bounce next week, he clearly doesn’t have the voter base of Jahmene or Chris. People want him to win, but the people who want him to win are not people who vote for programmes like this. Don’t be surprised to see him bounce back next week but to run into trouble again in week 9.