April 25, 2012

The Sked: American Idol vs The Voice — The Gap Widens

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Written by: Mitch Salem
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>As the (relatively) highly-rated singing competition shows head toward their season finales, it is time to take a broader view of the full season ratings tracks for FOX’s American Idol and NBC’s The Voice.  The chart below provides the episode ratings for the main performance episodes on Monday for The Voice and Wednesday for Idol.  (Results show ratings and special previews after the Super Bowl and NFC Championship Game are not shown.)  The most notable information on the chart is the weekly margin between the two shows.  The Voice started on Monday, February 6 with a +0.6 rating point margin over the third regular performance episode of Idol, and the first five episodes of The Voice averaged a weekly margin of almost half a rating point (+0.46).  But when Dancing with the Stars premiered on ABC on March 19, The Voice plunged below a 5 rating, continuing a decline that had already started the week before.  More disturbing for NBC, The Voice has fallen further and further behind Idol each week.  (Last week’s margin peaked at -1.1 rating points.)  What can we expect the rest of the season for both shows?  Click “read more” to find out.

The chart below displays the Adult 18-49 rating for each American Idol performance episode this year and last year.  The drop from 2012 is truly stunning when laid out visually — about 3 rating points each week (35-40%)  have simply disappeared, but the interesting thing to note in the chart is that the 2012 track has simply shifted down from 2011:  the underlying pattern of the program has remained relatively intact.  Just like 2011 (and the years before it), 2011 started at a peak and then steadily declined until episode 11 (two weeks ago) and then started to stabilize.  If the rest of this year continues to act like previous seasons, Idol will hold right around a 5.0 rating until the third week of the May sweep and the finale the last week of May should kick up to around a 6.0 rating, maybe a 6.4 rating.

 In contrast, The Voice is not behaving this year as it did in its first season last spring.  Admittedly, comparisons are difficult because last year the show debuted in late April and ended in late June, while this season runs more like Idol’s pattern from February to May.  But putting the time of year differences aside, we can see that in the first season The Voice was actually very flat throughout most of the season.  After two very solid ratings for the first two weeks (well above a 5 rating as the spinning chair gimmick was revealed), the show was right around a 4.5 rating for every other episode except the one week when the Dancing with the Stars finale invaded its prime Tuesday 10 pm territory.  Unlike Idol, there was no secondary peak at the finale.  After this season’s very promising start (with the first five episodes tracking well ahead of 2011), there has been a straight line down starting March 12 (week 6).  It is very possible that the finale will struggle to hold a 4.0 rating.  But even if it kicks up to a 4.5 rating at the end, the finale-to-finale margin versus Idol will have grown to about 2 full rating points.  We’ll update these charts in a few weeks just before the season finale episodes.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."