When Season 10 of The Voice starts tonight, viewers will already know two of the premiere’s biggest moments. They’ll know one of the four-chair auditions and another of the coaches’ surprising decisions. And they’ll know because NBC told them.
Again this year, NBC is continuing its tradition of intentionally leaking key clips from the singing competition before they air. Over the last five days they’ve posted two full blind auditions – results and all – on The Voice‘s YouTube channel. And if precedent holds, they’ll continue to purposefully drop big spoilers from the blinds all the way through the knockout rounds (so three-quarters of the show) all in the name of advance buzz.
The numbers prove them right: since its release on Feb. 25, Alisan Porter’s blind audition has already racked up more than 1.3 million views, while Mike Schiavo’s clip has 330,000 and counting following its drop on Feb. 27. There’s a portion of the viewing public that isn’t bothered by these leaks and just wants to watch anything and everything as soon as possible.
But what about those who don’t? As TV moves forward with time-shifted viewing and online media, have The Voice‘s live fans become the lowest-priority audience?
NBC’s spoiler tactics have been the same for seasons now. They gave away the audition of eventual Season 9 winner Jordan Smith on YouTube well before it aired – admittedly not knowing that he would be the champion, but they did. They did the same thing for Season 4 front-runner Judith Hill, who could’ve won the whole thing if not for a surprise vote from America during the live rounds.
In between, there were a lot of other reveals, on YouTube and even on broadcast. One of the best battle rounds of Season 9, that of Team Adam’s Keith Semple and Manny Cabo, was a YouTube leak. Watch the bumpers between commercial breaks too closely and you’ll learn things you shouldn’t, like that a coach’s steal is coming up in the next battle, therefore negating any need to worry about who wins.
That’s not counting the Twitter Instant Save, which requires any Voice fan not in the Eastern time zone to jump on social media and spoil the results show for themselves if they want to vote. Asked about this early on in the Instant Save’s run, producers told us then that they didn’t mind that side effect, as long as the fans were voting.
So what we have is a double-edged sword: NBC wanting to generate as much attention and ratings as possible, and fans who want to watch the show live and have it be a new experience for them every Monday and Tuesday. Neither side can really win.
You can understand the network’s position, the desire to promote their most popular show as often as they can, and naturally they want to do that using the strongest clips. But it’s hard to imagine that The Voice really needs that much advance hype at this point, not after two Emmy Awards and rising to become one of the top-rated reality shows on all of TV. Is that extra buzz worth giving away some of your top moments of each episode – keeping in mind that you may also turn audiences off watching after they’ve already seen the best parts?
Fans, of course, also have to take some responsibility here. They have the option of staying off YouTube and staying off social media, knowing just how bullish NBC is going to be with spoilers. The only way to ensure you’re not exposed to them at this point is to pretty much swear off anything Voice-related online, because once those clips are up they’re also reposted and reported on elsewhere.
And then of course there are people on Twitter and in YouTube comments happy to tell everyone what they saw at the last show taping or heard from a friend. And then you just have to learn to ignore every bumper before the commercials. If you really don’t want to be spoiled, it’s still possible, just with a lot of extra work.
But it shouldn’t be that way. The Voice is an amazing show, one that climbed its way to the top of singing competitions on merit and still happens to be the cream of the crop. It’s a phenomenal product and that’s worth valuing by not throwing out a spoiler every night. The show doesn’t need to do that to draw an audience, and once it has that audience, it doesn’t need to keep us by teasing every twist coming up after the next break. We didn’t have these spoilers in the early seasons and the show became a hit – it can remain one without them too.
The Voice returns tonight at 8 p.m. on NBC.