BGT Admits Ratings Defeat, But Will Schedule Move Be Enough?

Simon Cowell has conceded defeat. His rounded shoulders must be slumped forward at his sleek plate glass desk right now. “Cancel that lunch meeting with Paris Hilton – I’m taking the afternoon off with a box set of American Idolâ€?, an insider probably heard him grumble in SyCo Towers.

Yes, this is the news that Britain’s Got Talent has been ousted from its Saturday night entertainment slot of choice. After going head-to-head with The Voice for three weeks – with a 80-minute edition of the BBC show beginning at 7pm and BGT starting at 8pm on ITV – the media mogul has backed down.

The Voice will remain in its 7pm slot this Saturday for the first of two “Battle Roundâ€? specials, the second of which will air at 7:30pm the following evening, but ITV have moved BGT back half an hour. It will now be running between 8.30pm and 9.45pm.

Since the battle began back on the 24th March, BGT has consistently lost out to The Voice UK’s nicey nicey catchy superstar technique. On 24 March,The Voice had 8.9m viewers to BGT’s 6.6m during the 20-minute overlap. The next week, we saw figures of 9.6m v 7.6m, while the most recent instalment saw The Voice complete an out and out TV trouncing, notching up 10m viewers to BGT’s 6.4m.

But is a time change what BGT really needs?

In recent weeks, viewers (and some) critics alike have begun to extol the virtues of the civilised talent search format which put courtesy back into the equation. Gone are the sneering, spitting judges of yesteryear and apparently here to stay are the appreciative coaching talents of Tom Jones and Jessie J.

Way back at the launch of The Voice, back before we barely knew a s ingle Tom Jones anecdote, Danny Cohen (Controller of BBC One) spoke reservedly about the show he was due to launch. “We’ll have to wait for it to grow – these shows build, just like X Factor and Strictly didâ€?, he gingered. Success does not happen overnight etc etc…

But the stats for The Voice appear to tell a different story. The first week may have been dismissed as curiosity and there are those who would suggest that the end of the swivel-chair rounds could begin a downward spiral in the ratings stakes. But the fact remains that public interest has moved a SyCo generated giant into taking a less desirable Saturday spot. On some level, this has to tell us something about the direction of public interest in TV talent show tear ups.

“Soothing. Refreshing. Purely good vibes. #TheVoice” tweeted @nchristopeherl about this week’s show. “Watching #thevoice, so refreshing to see a singing contest with four experienced and talented judges. Louis Walsh should be very afraid”, enthused yet another enthusiastic viewer.

Cowell has built a career on judging public opinion; never a man to be accused of taking his finger off the pulse. Strange perhaps, that not more than a week ago, Cowell admitted that he may have to shed his “Mr Nastyâ€? image and succumb to a few TV niceties after all. Perhaps his talent shows face a similar fate.

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