Joe McElderry says The X Factor is facing its biggest challenge amidst a drop in viewer ratings.

The ITV talent show recently had its worst audience ratings in five years, and the former winner reckoned this year would be the ‘big test’, as Gary Barlow, Louis Walsh, Tulisa Contostavlos and Nicole Scherzinger take to the judging panel without Simon Cowell.

“Time will tell if it’s going to be successful without Simon. There have been two series without Simon now so this series will be the big test to see if it can survive without him,” he said.

Joe, who won the ITV1 show in 2009, gave his thumbs up for Nicole’s addition to the panel, saying: “She’s had a lot of experience at being a judge before, so I think she’ll bring that to the table.”

The 21-year-old – whose fourth album Here’s What I Believe is out now – admitted he has barely seen any of the current series.

“I’ve seen about 20 minutes of the first episode of The X Factor. I tend not to get attached to it this early on,” he explained.

“I like it when the live shows start – that’s when I really get hooked on it and guess who is going to win.”

He advised budding contestants to give the show their all, and not get caught up in the showbiz side.

“You have to work hard, be yourself and not just want fame. You also have to grow a thick skin – very quick! You have to distance yourself from it all and concentrate on what you’re doing, and be the best you can be.”