Will The Voice soar or croak



22:13 GMT, 22 March 2012

Publicly, BBC bosses insist that its flagship new Saturday night talent show The Voice doesn’t need to be an instant ratings hit, despite its eye-popping 22 million price tag.

But privately, it’s a different story. Insiders admit the launch tomorrow night, which goes head-to-head with the first 20 minutes of Britain’s Got Talent on ITV1, is the biggest programming risk the Beeb has taken in more than a decade.

A source at the BBC tells me: ‘If it doesn’t get more than ten million viewers, as Call The Midwife did, then it’s nothing short of an expensive disaster.’

The Voice judges, from left, are Jessie J, Danny O'Donoghue, Will.i.am, and Tom Jones

The Voice judges, from left, are Jessie J, Danny O'Donoghue, Will.i.am, and Tom Jones

If The Voice, with judges Sir Tom Jones, will.i.am, Jessie J and The Script’s Danny O’Donoghue, emulates the major success of the U.S. version — it’s now the most popular show on TV there, beating long-term champ American Idol — the Beeb believes it could cause ‘serious damage’ to both Simon Cowell’s BGT and The X Factor.

Cowell is privately seething about the BBC’s aggressive tactics and has been encouraging ITV chiefs to go into battle mode.

He insisted on poaching Alesha Dixon from Strictly Come Dancing to join the BGT panel, despite some top ITV executives doubting whether she was the right choice.

My ITV insider explains: ‘Simon’s view is that they started this war by paying so much money for The Voice in the first place and we should be throwing everything possible at it to kill it off.’

ITV had been prepared to pay significantly more than the BBC to buy The Voice format, which is owned by John de Mol — the Dutch TV mogul behind reality show Big Brother.

However, I’m told Mr de Mol believed ITV may not have been as desperate for the show to succeed because it already has Cowell’s two big talent shows on air.

/03/22/article-2118935-12450D88000005DC-581_468x304.jpg” width=”468″ height=”304″ alt=”Holly Willoughby and Reggie Yates will be co-presenting the new BBC TV show The Voice” class=”blkBorder” />

Holly Willoughby and Reggie Yates will be co-presenting the new BBC TV show The Voice

Former Strictly star Alesha Dixon, now a judge on the ITV show, will be in competition with Reggie Yates, co-presenter of the BBC series with Holly Willoughby.

Alesha and Reggie have previously dated and remain close pals, but I’m told: ‘They’ve made a decision not to talk about the battle because their relationship is more important than work.’

Count down to Carol's latest ITV challenge
Quiz show host: Carol Vorderman

Quiz show host: Carol Vorderman

For 26 years she was a fixture of Channel 4’s daytime schedule, co-hosting the game show Countdown.

But now Carol Vorderman is preparing to front a new afternoon quiz show for ITV which could end up going head to head with the programme that made her famous.

The network is keen to increase the presence of the 51-year-old after she helped boost its ratings by becoming a co-presenter on the lunchtime chat show Loose Women.

‘Carol is going to become one of the faces of ITV during the day,’ I am assured.

‘She is very popular. Channel 4 was crazy to let her go.

‘But her new game show is going to be completely different to Countdown — which is still stuck in 1982 — and will be much more modern.’

BBC1’s highly-promoted update of Upstairs Downstairs has failed to match the success of its new drama sensation Call The Midwife.

After drawing 6.5 million viewers for its season premiere, the Upstairs Downstairs figures have dropped to 4.75 million. The finale of the series is on Sunday.

Homeland stars Damian Lewis and Claire Danes

Homeland stars Damian Lewis and Claire Danes

The beneficiary is Channel 4’s U.S. terrorism drama Homeland, starring Damian Lewis and Claire Danes with the latest episode seen by 2.4 million viewers.

A source says: ‘It is telling that the people who are switching off from Upstairs Downstairs are turning to Homeland. It is the best U.S. drama since Mad Men and is building as the buzz increases.’

After six years Dancing On Ice is fighting for survival after more than two million viewers have tuned out, with fewer than six million watching the results show.

Insiders admit that the axing of two judges, ex-Spice Girl Emma Bunton and the waspish Jason Gardiner, was disastrous and the show is in need of a major revamp.

With no other big new entertainment shows waiting in the wings, ITV cannot afford to let Dancing On Ice melt.