UPDATE, WRITETHRU, 9:23 AM PT: The seventh season of Simon Cowell‘s Britain’s Got Talent kicks off in the UK on April 13 and has set the scene for yet another showdown with The Voice UK, shifting timeslots and pitting the two shows head-to-head. The Voice debuted on BBC One on March 30 in the 7-8:35 PM slot, the same space it occupied last year. Then yesterday, it was revealed that ITV would air BGT at the identical hour when it debuts, despite traditionally starting an hour later. The BBC in turn has confirmed that it will back The Voice up by 15 minutes to 6:45 PM starting on April 13 to avoid a direct clash (this also moves Doctor Who back to about 6 PM). Given the flexibility of British broadcast schedules – and how much jostling there was last year – this is unlikely to be the last change in the ongoing battle between the two competition shows. A BBC insider calls ITV’s move “disappointing” saying “it’s not in the best interest of the fans.” An ITV source contends that the BBC “deliberately” slotted The Voice in the spring, where BGT has been since 2006 meaning an overlap was inevitable. To avoid a clash, ITV “would have had to go late” and risk losing the family audience.
This is just the latest example of the networks’ rivalry over the shows. Back in 2011, they duked it out for rights to The Voice UK which ultimately debuted on BBC One in March 2012. Although it initially lost in overall ratings to BGT, The Voice beat its foe during the key 20 minutes when they overlapped for several weeks. ITV then moved BGT later so that it would start 10 minutes after the end of The Voice. BGT closed its sixth season with a May finale that was the most watched show of the year up to that point and The Voice hit a ratings decline during the live shows. It’s reducing the number of live episodes this year and BGT has also made tweaks for the new season. Cowell, who returned to BGT last year to help give it a boost, will be back. Meanwhile, his UK X Factor took a big ratings hit last year so the impressario is getting more involved when that season kicks off in the fall.