The Voice has become a major cornerstone of the NBC brand in the past eight seasons, and it’s become a valuable tool for the network.
NBC has used the singing competition to launch new shows and show sneak previews, recently debuting a teaser for the upcoming A.D: The Bible Continues miniseries. And while the ratings fluctuate from season to season, it is a solid performer for the network.
Unlike its competitor American Idol, when The Voice has an off season, it is able to recover instead of consistently losing viewers. For instance, the spring 2014 season saw the finale bring in 12.8 million viewers, instead of the 14-15 million viewers it drew for other recent finales.
But when the show returned last month, opening episodes came back strong with just shy of 14 million viewers, over one million more than the Season 7 spring premiere.
While Idol is struggling to keep its advertisers, The Voice landed a major sponsorship with Nissan in season 8 that will last through through season 10. It remains one of the most expensive prime time shows for ad buyers. A 30 second spot on the show will run from $262,041 for the Monday show or $254,485 on Tuesday.
In December, the show reached a major milestone: 20 million digital downloads. That means viewers respond well enough to the performances on the show to actually shell out some of their cash.
But here’s where The Voice struggles.
While people enjoy the performances (judging by the download sales), the show has yet to produce a new “star”. There hasn’t been a Carrie Underwood, Kelly Clarkson or Phillip Phillips who has taken their reality appearance and has become a major player in their own right.
It has launched a few promising singers, namely Tessanne Chin and Cassadee Pope, but even though we watched every episode, it was hard to even recall the name of last season’s winner. (It was Craig Wayne Boyd, who is building a country career.)
Paul Telgedy, the president of Alternative and Late Night Programming at NBC, has addressed this subject, “We would love to have a star, but one way we distinguished ourselves from other shows since day one is we have never made the promise of stardom. Music is not about instant stardom and the stories that get traction these days in the [mainstream] are more about substance and hard work.”
One reason is possibly the editing and format of the show. It often seems geared to showcase the coaches more than the contestants, and has boosted their already successful careers.
Prior to The Voice, Adam Levine was best known as the frontman of Maroon 5 and a regular guest on Saturday Night Live. But since starting on the show in 2011, he has launched a clothing line and fragrances and his band’s latest album landed in the number 1 spot on Billboard, which was something Maroon 5 hadn’t done since 2007.
Blake Shelton has gone from country star to household name since he started on the show, with 11.1 million Twitter followers and a front row seat at the CMAs.
The show also has seamlessly rotated in new famous faces without damaging ratings too much. Performers such as Cee Lo Green and Christina Aguilera have traded spots with Shakira, Gwen Stefani and Pharrell Williams.
So, perhaps the real story of The Voice isn’t the stars among the contestants, but the stars judging them.