Global Battle for the Ratings Crown

Across Europe and the world, the "original" singing competition faces an upstart foe.

For a moment in its second season, it looked as if NBC's The Voice finally would topple Fox's long-ruling ratings hit American Idol. That hasn't happened. At least not in America.

Overseas, though, Voice and its spinning chairs have in many territories beaten Idol in the ratings game. In France, for instance, the premiere season of Voice has averaged more than 7 million viewers, double the audience for the finale of the most recent season of Idol (called Nouvelle Star) in 2010. In the Netherlands, where Dutch media mogul John de Mol first created and aired the format, Voice ended its second season with 3.7 million viewers compared with 2.6 million for the last Dutch Idol (in 2008). In Germany, the season finale of Idol barely beat Voice, but the upstart drew a larger audience in the 14-to-49 demo. In Australia, Voice drew 2.9 million viewers in its first-season premiere in April, enough to make it the highest-rated debut of the year.

The most hotly contested territory in the format war is the U.K., where local media has become obsessed with the battle between BBC's Voice and ITV's Britain's Got Talent, hosted by ex-Idol judge Simon Cowell. Recently, BGT has pulled ahead, drawing 9.8 million viewers May 5 versus Voice's 8.2 million.

Idol retains its lead globally, though. According to a study by Mediametrie, Idol formats rated among the top 10-rated programs in eight countries in 2011, compared with three (Netherlands, Bulgaria and Denmark) for Voice. But Voice's global rollout has been faster -- more than 20 territories since de Mol launched Voice on Dutch channel RTL4 in fall 2010. The big question is whether Voice will prove its longevity. Ratings dipped for second seasons in Belgium and the Netherlands, suggesting the novelty of blind auditions (and those chairs) might be wearing off.

 
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