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By Aaron Parsley
September 22, 2011 02:45 PM
Credit: Jason LaVeris/Getty, Frazer Harrison/Getty

The X Factor is finally here!

And after a premiere night that included wild, wacky and wonderful auditions – and an unpopular switcheroo on the judges’ panel – the ratings are also in.

More than 12 million viewers tuned in to watch the premiere of The X Factor Wednesday night, which is a lot less than the more than 26 million who tuned into see Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez on the season 10 premiere of American Idol in January. Still, Wednesday’s debut was Fox’s biggest for a fall series in five years, the network said.

It may be unfair to compare a brand new show’s first episode to an established ratings giant like Idol, which has been around since Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood were unknowns. However, Simon Cowell himself suggested at Fox’s press tour in August that his new show would do better than his old show. And he reportedly told The Hollywood Reporter that anything less than 20 million viewers would be a “disappointment.”

But Mike Darnell, Fox’s head of alternative programming, isn’t disappointed one bit. “We never expected it to be American Idol numbers,” he tells PEOPLE. “American Idol is a phenomenon. Those expectations were crazy. Internally, these numbers were very good. I’m relieved this morning … If this was any other show, it would be considered a hit.”

But forget the ratings and what Simon and others say – tell us what you think: Does The X Factor, with its $5 million recording contract prize, humongous stage and the return of Paula Abdul, have what it takes to be better than Ryan Seacrest and American Idol? Time will only tell as far as the numbers go, but you can vote now below:

Reporting by KEVIN O’DONNELL