The season two premiere of Fox’s refurbished The X Factor didn’t quite have the impact the network was hoping for, as a bonus helping of NBC’s The Voice disrupted the opener.
Per Nielsen live-plus-same-day data, the first hour of The X Factor  averaged 7.46 million total viewers and a 2.8 rating in the 18-to-49 demo from 8 to 9 p.m., while The Voice drew 10.9 million viewers and a 3.4 in the dollar demo.
In head-to-head competition last night, the one-hour installment of The Voice outperformed The X Factor in the demo by 21 percent.
The good news for Fox is that The X Factor continued to grow throughout the night. After delivering 7.07 million viewers and a 2.6 rating in the first half hour, the premiere improved to 7.84 million/2.9 (8:30-9 p.m.). In the 9-9:30 p.m. slot, The X Factor surged to 9.21 million viewers and a 3.7 rating, before topping out from 9:30-10 p.m. with 9.76 million viewers and a 3.9.
All told, the new-look Factor averaged 8.73 million total viewers and a 3.4 rating. From the first half hour to the last, the season opener jumped 38 percent in total deliveries and 50 percent in the demo.
Beginning Sept. 26, The Voice  won’t be around to try and spoil the Factor’s party. The Wednesday show will face ABC’s comedy block (The Middle, The Neighbors, Modern Family, Suburgatory); CBS’s Survivor/Criminal Minds monolith; NBC’s comedy-drama dyad (Animal Practice/Guys With Kids, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit) and the CW’s brooding heroes block (Arrow, Supernatural).
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.