Britain's Got Talent beats The Voice in ratings battle

ITV show returns with 9.3 million viewers compared with BBC1 newcomer's 8.4 million, but The Voice fares better head-to-head

Simon Cowell's Britain's Got Talent claimed victory over BBC1's new talent show rival The Voice in the Saturday night ratings war – but lost out when the two shows went head-to-head.

Britain's Got Talent returned to ITV1 with 9.3 million viewers between 8pm and 9.20pm, rising to 9.87 million when the catch-up channel ITV1+1 is included, a 41.1% share of the audience.

BBC1's The Voice, which featured a judging line-up including Sir Tom Jones, Jessie J and, launched with 8.4 million viewers, a 37.6% share, between 7pm and 8.20pm.

But when the two shows were briefly on air at the same time, between 8pm and 8.20pm, the BBC1 show had a substantial lead with an average of 8.9 million viewers against Britain's Got Talent's 6.6 million.

There has been no shortage of animosity between the two broadcasters in the runup to the launch of the two shows. The BBC accused ITV, which tried to buy The Voice format for itself, of bringing Britain's Got Talent forward from its usual April launch date as a spoiler.

Cowell said the BBC should "get their sense of humour back" and questioned whether the BBC should be doing the sort of Saturday night singing contest with which he has made his fortune.

The BBC1 controller, Danny Cohen, played down ratings expectations before the launch. But having committed £22m to The Voice over the next two years, he will be delighted with the result.

Cohen said: "It's fantastic that viewers have responded so warmly to the launch of The Voice. I hope that they continue to enjoy the quality of the show in the coming weeks."

Despite the return of Cowell to its judging lineup, alongside new signings David Walliams and Alesha Dixon, Britain's Got Talent could not match the audience for last year's launch show.

The 2011 series, which featured Michael McIntyre and David Hasselhoff as judges, launched with 9.9 million viewers on ITV1 and 10.4 million including ITV1+1. The talent show began in 2007 with an audience of 4.9 million.

Closer examination of the audience figures reveals that The Voice had a five-minute peak audience of 9.8 million between 7.55pm and 8pm, just before Britain's Got Talent was about to start on ITV1.

Britain's Got Talent had a five-minute peak of 11.5 million between 9.10pm and 9.15pm, rising to 12.2 million including ITV1+1.

Several million viewers changed channels to watch both shows, with BBC1's audience dropping from 9.1 million to 4.2 million at the end of The Voice, as ITV1's grew from 6.1 million to 10.5 million at the same time.

Excluding soaps, Britain's Got Talent was ITV1's highest-rating programme of the year to date. It was also the highest-rating programme on any channel so far this year, beating the 9.3 million who watched BBC1's Call The Midwife.

ITV's director of television, Peter Fincham, said: "BGT celebrates some brilliant acts and it's fantastic that it remains such a firm favourite with viewers."


John Plunkett

The GuardianTramp

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