Universal Music, `Big Brother' Creator Team Up for U.S. TV Talent Contest

Vivendi SA’s Universal Music Group will record and market the stars of a new television talent show, “The Voice of America,” to premiere on NBC this spring.

The show, created by “Big Brother” founder John de Mol, recently aired in the Netherlands as “The Voice of Holland” and exceeded viewership of the local versions of “Idol,” “The X Factor” and “Holland’s Got Talent,” Universal Music said in a statement today.

Faced with online piracy and a drop in album sales, record companies are inking deals with television as popular music talent shows such as “Idol” and “The X Factor” generate artists who appeal to mass audiences. Universal, which represents Lady Gaga, Mariah Carey and Rihanna, will record and promote stars emerging from “The Voice Of …” series around the world, except for Holland and Belgium.

Universal last year replaced Sony Music Entertainment as the record-label partner of Fox’s “American Idol” after judge Simon Cowell left the show to start a U.S. version of “The X Factor,” the U.K.’s top talent show. Cowell, whose record label Syco sits inside Sony’s U.K. headquarters, has a contract for all versions of “The X Factor” and “Got Talent,” as well as record deals with Leona Lewis, Susan Boyle and Il Divo.

This spring’s “The Voice of America” will be produced with reality show pioneer Mark Burnett, whose shows include “Survivor” and “The Apprentice.”

Biggest Market

“The Voice” has three stages of competition and four celebrity coaches. In the first stage, judges cannot see the contestants and must pick their favorites based on vocal skills. The second stage sees those chosen battling each other for spots on coaches’ teams. The final stage has the performers live on stage. TV viewers vote along with coaches and the winner gets a record contract with Universal.

“I am convinced that the U.S. version of this format, “The Voice,” will be a great instrument in discovering genuine and amazing new singing talent in the biggest entertainment market in the world,” de Mol said in today’s statement.

During the live shows, “The Voice of Holland” was the most-watched Dutch TV program on prime-time Friday night in December and early this month.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kristen Schweizer in London at kschweizer1@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Vidya Root at vroot@bloomberg.net.

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