Voice, X Factor go head-to-head

(L-R) The Voice's Blake Shelton, Christina Aguilera, Cee Lo Green, Adam Levine, Carson Daly,...

(L-R) The Voice's Blake Shelton, Christina Aguilera, Cee Lo Green, Adam Levine, Carson Daly, Christina Milian, and Executive producer Mark Burnett attend the NBCUniversal's "The Voice" Press Junket and cocktail reception on August 12, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. Christopher Polk/for NBCUniversal/AFP

Bill Harris, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:50 PM ET

Even Simon Cowell has been getting Voice lessons lately. Or giving them, perhaps?

Maybe it's a plot to increase ratings for both The Voice and The X Factor. What's life without a good conspiracy theory?

To be clear, Cowell has nothing to do with The Voice, which returns for its third season Monday, Sept. 10, on NBC and CTV Two. The Voice is the one with Christina Aguilera.

Cowell's current show is The X Factor, which returns for its second season -- with new judge Britney Spears -- Wednesday, Sept. 12 on Fox and CTV.

Intriguingly, a last-minute scheduling adjustment by NBC put The Voice and The X Factor on a collision course this week. At least, that's how Cowell sees it. Or is he just being wily?

Maybe Mark Burnett, guru of The Voice, has been in on it all along.

The Voice was originally scheduled to air Monday and Tuesday. The X Factor was slated for Wednesday and Thursday.

But NBC decided to add a third installment of The Voice on Wednesday, to battle The X Factor directly.

Cowell accused NBC of dirty tricks, saying that making Britney go up against her old rival Christina was out of bounds. Because TV scheduling always has been a gentleman's game, hardy har har.

"It's very important to get this message out," Cowell said in a conference call with reporters Thursday. "They (The Voice) don't want you to watch this show (The X Factor). And I think it's going to backfire."

By publicly raising the stakes, Cowell cleverly framed this as a battle of TV heavyweights.

Both shows do well by normal standards in U.S. ratings, but the rookie season of The X Factor fell short of Cowell's lofty predictions, and The Voice trended downward in the second half of its second season.

Overall in the U.S., The X Factor did better numerically, but The Voice got better pop-culture buzz.

Bell Media has Canadian rights to both shows, so if a ratings-boosting war emerges, win-win. But they're both significant hits here already, with season one of The X Factor averaging 1.9 million viewers -- making it the No. 1 new program on Canadian TV -- and season two of The Voice averaging 1.6 million.

Bell Media has both CTV and CTV Two, so any scheduling conflicts can be accommodated. The breakdown this week: The Voice airs Monday on CTV Two, Tuesday on CTV, and Wednesday on CTV Two; The X Factor airs Wednesday on CTV and Thursday on CTV Two. The point is, you'll be able to find both shows.

And maybe now, thanks to Cowell, you have an increased desire to find both shows. That may have been the point of all this controversy.

Can't you picture Simon Cowell and Mark Burnett sipping brandy together and laughing conspiratorially? I can.

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca


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