On Saturday evening, at about the same time that Simon Cowell was discovering a brick-wielding mentalist in his bathroom, the preliminary ratings figures were coming through over at BBC Centre. And things were looking rather good. When the hard statistics were confirmed yesterday, they showed that The Voice beat Britain’s Got Talent by 2.4 million viewers during the 20 minute period in which the two shows over-lapped.
BBC execs must have been delighted when their multi-million pound acquisition peaked at over 9 million viewers just before 8 o’clock. Not only was it the most popular Saturday night reality debut in UK history (beating BGT in 2007 and X Factor in 2004 by around three million) but it had bettered most estimates from within the Beeb. Yet despite this early success, many think that the hardest yards are ahead for The Voice..
“They had a great start,” admitted Simon Cowell. “But to use a football analogy, it’s only the first five minutes of a 90 minute match. It’s early days.” Indeed despite being given a bit of a pasting during the all important 20 minute overlap, Britain’s Got Talent was up by a million viewers compared to it’s 2011 opening episode. Apparently the media storm has boosted both shows.
“The BBC tried to manage expectation,” said an ITV spokesperson. “But look at the amount of cross promotion they gave it – you couldn’t move for it. It will be interesting to see how it does after week one. In other territories it has fallen like a stone.”
While many critics have praised The Voice’s fresh approach, many have also noted that it is less fun than its ITV1 counterpart. Reggie Yates and Holly Willoughby are no Ant and Dec and without the novelty acts, the show can seem a little one-paced. “The Voice certainly has the talent – and the tension too..” said Sam Wollaston in The Guardian. But he went on to admit that he missed the early ‘pantomime’ stages we see in BGT and X Factor. “I enjoy that part; and it gives the whole series a sense of progression, from rubbish to quite good. The danger here is that it’s starting so strongly, musically, that there’s nowhere to go, no journey.”
But in her brief Telegraph review (presuambly drafted on a post-it) Sarah Crompton just about had the time that although she like it.. “So the BBC could have relaxed a little, and packed in fewer tricks. The show feels long, but it is full of interest. A hit.”
There was also a common strand of thought which suggested that Simon Cowell’s efforts to ramp up the publicity war (a claim he stringently denies) by moving the BGT debut to the same night as The Voice, has back fired on him.
“Cowell and ITV stoked a war which was intended to drown out The Voice but instead it has clearly impacted on BGT,” a BBC source told The Daily Mail. “They staged this phoney war which just got people interested in our show. We have never seen this level of excitement for one of our new shows.”
Yet while the Beeb are enjoying an early victory, there are concerns that Simon Cowell will have the last laugh. Britain’s Got Talent traditionally picks up more viewers as it progresses and many people in the ITV camp have explained that the show has lost viewers in other countries after starting well. The BBC may have won round one, but it seems clear that the real battle has only just begun..
So which one did you watch on Saturday night?