'The Voice' Drowns Out 'The X Factor'

NBC programming stunt takes a bite out of splashy Fox premiere

Any way you slice it, The X Factor was down considerably from its year-ago series debut, when it delivered 12.5 million total viewers and a 4.4 in the demo. Even that strong start was overshadowed by Factor creator and co-star Simon Cowell’s assertion that anything short of 20 million viewers would be a terrible disappointment.  

From a business standpoint, that 4.4 rating fell well below Fox’s initial ratings guarantees. Media buyers last summer said Fox had guaranteed a 6.0 in the dollar demo; that ceiling was revised downward after the premiere.

Estimates put the average unit cost for a spot in season two of Factor at around $265,000.

As for the show itself, Cowell came out with guns blazing last night, introducing Factor’s two new celebrity judges, Britney Spears and Demi Lovato. Spears was particularly engaging, especially when she got to play the heavy. In the second hour, a contestant who once performed a duet with Britney—and who now seems like a walking PSA about the hazards of huffing solvents—disintegrates like a flaming carnation after he botches his audition. Britney tries to break the news as gently as she can, but is unwavering in her verdict.

The X Factor has another chance at building its audience tonight, when it will lead into the season premiere of Glee.

As for The Voice, the first three installments have averaged 11.5 million viewers and a 3.9 in the demo, and while direct comparisons with last year’s premiere are unfairly skewed—episode 201 drew 37.6 million viewers and a 16.3 in the demo, thanks to its having a little thing called the Super Bowl as a lead-in—the ratings aren’t too far afield from the show’s entire season two average (11.5 million/4.4).

While the two singing competition series went at it, NBC also rolled out its fourth new sitcom of the 2012-13 campaign. A special preview of not at all ambiguously-titled Guys With Kids bowed at 10 p.m., drawing 6.25 million viewers and a 2.2 in the demo. The series returns Sept. 26 in its regularly scheduled Wednesday 8:30 p.m. timeslot, where it will lead out of Animal Practice.

On Monday, Ryan Murphy’s The New Normal dropped in front of an audience of 6.88 million viewers and a 2.5 rating. The following night, the comedy had its time slot debut, averaging 6.96 million viewers and another 2.5 in the dollar demo. Thus far in this very young season, Normal lead-in Go On has put up the biggest numbers for an NBC comedy, averaging 9.73 million viewers and a 3.4 rating on Tuesday.