By James Hibberd
Updated April 04, 2012 at 05:03 PM EDT
The Voice Sera Hill
Credit: NBC

After weeks of victory-lap headlines, NBC’s The Voice is starting to falter somewhat in the ratings — with Fox’s American Idol retaking the lead.

NBC’s music competition continues to rule most nights it airs, just like Tuesday evening when the first Voice results show of the season dominated a somewhat modestly rated field of contenders. The Voice delivered 8.4 million viewers and a 3.2 adults 18-49 rating. With ABC’s Dancing With the Stars results show (15.4 million, 2.7) down 13 percent and Fox’s tent-pole comedy New Girl (4.6 million, 2.3) down 12 percent, how can you bag on The Voice, right?

Except, The Voice has declined the last five weeks in a row. It’s down 52 percent this week from its first Monday episode. And while the media justifiably made plenty of noise about The Voice overthrowing Fox’s genre-leading American Idol back in February, few noticed that three weeks ago, the Idol performance show climbed back to the top of the weekly race — and has stayed there.

Both episodes of The Voice this week are actually below the show’s first week of live shows last year, which aired during June when TV viewing levels are traditionally lower. And that ratings slippage is despite The Voice receiving a record-setting boost at the start of this second season thanks to its Super Bowl lead-in.

As a format that airs in many countries, The Voice traditionally declines after its chair-spinning audition rounds. NBC wisely was able to stymie some of this audience loss by stocking the first battle rounds with celebrity guests like Kelly Clarkson, Jewel, Lionel Richie and Alanis Morissette.

Yet the show’s ratings erosion as we go into its live shows is apparently starting to manifest. NBC has explanations for each week of drops — the onset of Daylight Savings Time, the return of Dancing with the Stars, NCAA basketball coverage, etc. So are viewers slipping away because of these external X factors? Or because of the show itself? (It will be interesting to see what happens if NBC does indeed decide to ambitiously double pump The Voice into the fall, as current industry rumors suggest).

For ratings-parched NBC, it should be noted The Voice remains a godsend. The series allows the network to win nights it would otherwise likely wind up in fourth place. NBC’s Monday night drama Smash might not have received an audience big enough to warrant a second season renewal if not for help from its much larger Voice lead-in.

But the fight between The Voice and Idol wasn’t decisively won last month and is, based on the last several weeks, far from over.

Also Tuesday: ABC’s Body of Proof (2.0) was steady and won 10 p.m. NBC’s Biggest Loser (2.0) and Fashion Star (1.5) were unchanged. Fox’s Raising Hope (1.6) was up 7 percent and Breaking In (1.3) was down 13 percent. The CW’s Ringer (0.4) just sat there and cried.

Episode Recaps

The Voice - Season 14

The Voice

A rotating chair-full of judges search for the next great superstar singer on this NBC reality show.

  • TV Show
  • 15
  • 388
  • NBC