Entertainment & Arts

Gary Barlow to return to The X Factor

2011 X Factor judges
Last year, Barlow was joined on the judging panel by Kelly Rowland, Tulisa Contostavlos and Louis Walsh

Take That star Gary Barlow will reprise his role as a judge on ITV's The X Factor, producers have announced.

He is the first star to be re-confirmed for the reality show, which returns later this year.

Analysts had suggested the show might be due for a shake-up after its ratings suffered in 2011.

"I'm thrilled to be back and really looking forward to working with The X Factor team again," said Barlow in a statement.

"The fact that a superstar could just walk out on that stage is very exciting."

"See you at auditions," he added in a Twitter message to his fans.

Show creator Simon Cowell said: "It's great to be able to confirm our first judge for this year's show. Gary has earned his place and I'm excited to be working with him again."

Cowell was absent from the X Factor panel for the first time last year, as he concentrated on launching a US version of the show.

During that time, ratings for the UK edition fell below those of BBC rival Strictly Come Dancing for the first time in a number of years.

The audience for the final, when girl group Little Mix won the competition, peaked at 15.5 million viewers.

In 2010, a peak of 19.4 million saw Matt Cardle's triumph. In 2009, 19.1 million viewers tuned in.

However, the series was still the third-highest rated since X Factor began in 2004, with an average weekly audience of 11 million.

The other judges on last year's panel were newcomers Kelly Rowland and Tulisa Contostavlos, alongside regular judge Louis Walsh.

The first round of auditions for this year's programme have already been held, but no contestants have been screened by the judges yet.

Those auditions will take place later in the spring, with the programme returning to screens in late summer.

A change in the rules this year means that singers with a management deal will be allowed to enter the competition for the first time.

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