The X Factor‘s viewing figures have fallen yet again, with the fourth show of the 2012 series dropping to a new low – and pulling in 3m fewer viewers than the equivalent show in 2011.

According to overnight figures Saturday’s show – featuring highlights from Manchester and Liverpool, and the debut of guest judge Geri Halliwell – drew an average of 8.2m viewers, 7.7m during the main broadcast and a further 500,000 on the catch-up service ITV+1 an hour later.

The show reached a peak audience of 9.4m viewers – a considerable drop compared to last year’s figures, where at this stage an average audience of 11.1m and a peak audience of 12.5m were tuning in.

The figures make it the least popular show of the series so far, and are 400,000 down on the average of 8.6m who watched last Saturday’s instalment.

However ITV were quick to point out that The X Factor was still the most watched show on British TV on Saturday night.

Saturday’s show was the first of a double bill of auditions episodes, with another edition due to be screened on Sunday evening.

It also overlapped with the second Doctor Who episode, Dinosaurs On A Spaceship, by 10 minutes at 8.10pm.

This weekend’s shows have reportedly been personally overseen by Simon Cowell following criticism that last Saturday’s show featured just eight minutes of singing, with the remainder of the hour taken up with contestants’ back stories and commercial breaks.

Saturday’s show featured the return of last year’s semi-finalist Melanie McCabe, as well as a stunning performance from nervous call centre worker Christopher Maloney – who has already been made one of the favourites to win the series with odds of 10-1.

Meanwhile rumours that Cheryl Cole would be joining Gary Barlow at the judges’ houses stage of the show were confirmed on Sunday when photos appeared of the two of them together.

Former judge Cheryl – wearing a smart black and white two-piece outfit – was all smiles as she and the Take That singer arrived at Boughton House in Northants.

Her participation in the show is said to have been arranged secretly by Gary Barlow – without even Simon Cowell knowing what he was up to.

“It’s safe to say this person knows a thing or two about the competition,” Gary said, while Cheryl added she was “so excited” to be back on the show.