The Voice first came to the public eye when the BBC revealed that it was exploring the possibility of acquiring the rights. However, ITV was also interested as it was concerned that The X Factor could lose ratings after Simon Cowell, Cheryl Cole and Dannii Minogue left the panel. ITV were said to be afraid that the show with would "upstage" theirs. It was reported by The Sun that BBC and ITV were in a "bidding war" for The Voice UK. The Sun's Colin Robertson and Leigh Holmwood stated that ITV were "nervous", "fearing" that The Voice UK could "undermine" the X Factor. The Sun had previously reported that the BBC were "close" to getting The Voice, as well as saying that "ITV executives had originally told X Factor top brass they weren't interested in picking up the rights." However, "now they have told owners of The Voice format they ARE interested." A source said, "The X Factor has had a bit of a rollercoaster ride already this year and ITV fear any rival new show could blow it out of the water. The hype around The Voice is now so great that ITV feels it has no choice but to be in the running for it. If the BBC got it—and managed to sign Cheryl—then it could snare loads of viewers away from The X Factor." ITV were planning to have The Voice UK as "'companion show'" for The X Factor.
On 18 June 2011, it was reported that the BBC had won the rights to The Voice UK. In mid-2011 it was revealed that BBC would be broadcasting The Voice after paying £22 million. Danny Cohen, the controller of BBC One, said he wants the programme to emulate the success of The Apprentice and defended his decision to invest in it. Cohen said, "I thought it was really good. Every so often the BBC occasionally buys something from abroad that is peerlessly good, like The Apprentice. We adapted that for Britain with Alan Sugar and made the British version the best in the world. We hope The Voice will do similarly. We shouldn't shut the door on anything."
It was later revealed that The Voice would not be going head-to-head with The X Factor as Strictly Come Dancing is broadcast at the end of the year. Channel 4 had entered the bidding war with the BBC and ITV, but later pulled out after the channel's director called the show "derivative" and "a rip-off". It was said that the BBC was keen to sign up a new singing-talent show after it dropped Fame Academy in 2004 and had not revisited the genre. It was also eager to schedule a replacement for So You Think You Can Dance, which was dropped in 2011. Presenter Holly Willoughby also stated that The Voice UK is a "feel good show" saying, "The difference [with The Voice] is it's a blind audition, the coaches can't see the contestants when they come on stage so they judge them purely on their voice and their voice alone. It's really feel-good and the coaches are incredible."
Devised by John de Mol, the creator of Big Brother, The Voice is based on the Dutch TV programme The Voice of Holland and is part of The Voice franchise, being based on the similar US format. The BBC were "desperate" to get The Voice UK after they axed So You Think You Can Dance.
According to Anita Singh from The Daily Telegraph, the BBC have spent £22 million on buying the rights to the show, which will last two years. Of the amount of money spent on it, a BBC spokesperson said, "There is an awful lot of pressure, given the money spent on the format, for the ratings to be good. But at the moment all signs are that it will be cash well spent." Singh stated however, that this contradicted a "pledge" made by Mark Thompson, the director-general. He said, "The BBC needs to make a further significant shift towards distinctiveness, spending more of the licence fee on output which, without the BBC, wouldn't get made at all." The ITV reportedly "offered more for the format but were turned down". After comparisons to the X Factor were made, Cohen defended the decision to gain the rights to the show saying, "We feel that there's enough difference in this format that it will stand out. The fact that ITV tried very hard to get it—even though they've got The X Factor—suggests that they feel this show is different enough [from that one]."
We've got three dancing shows on BBC One this year on Saturday nights, and I wanted to decrease that but still find ways that we could have live, often performance-based television. We are in an era where the audience love that [and] we shouldn't ignore what the audience want."
—Danny Cohen on why the BBC choose to get the rights for The Voice UK.
In October 2011, it was announced that Moira Ross executive producer of Strictly Come Dancing quit the show to join production company Wall to Wall, so that she could take the position of executive producer of The Voice UK.
The BBC were planning to make each performance on the show available for download each week, with the proceeds going to charity or the downloads being free, before it is then released commercially. The winner will receive £100,000, as well as a record deal with Universal Republic.
On 24 May 2013, it was reported that BBC One was close to recommissioning the show for a third series in 2014. The next day, it was confirmed that it will return for a third series. In July 2013, Jessie J and Danny O'Donoghue confirmed they would not be able to return as coaches for series 3 due to their music careers and touring. In September, Holly Willoughby and Reggie Yates announced they would not be returning as co-presenters for series 3. It was confirmed the same month that Kylie Minogue and Ricky Wilson would replace Jessie J and O'Donoghue. It was announced that Emma Willis and Marvin Humes would replace Willoughby and Yates as co-presenters for the third series. On 29 March 2014, the BBC confirmed the series would be returning for another two series. In April, Minogue confirmed that she would not return for the fourth series, due to clashes with her Kiss Me Once Tour. On 22 September, it was confirmed that Rita Ora would replace Minogue.
In June 2015, it was announced Ora would be joining the twelfth series of The X Factor. In August 2015, it was announced that Paloma Faith would replace Ora, with Boy George replacing original coach Jones, who was let go and would not be involved in the fifth series' production.
On 7 November 2015, it was announced that the fifth series of The Voice UK would be the last to air on BBC. On 23 November 2015, ITV announced they had acquired the rights to air The Voice UK for three additional series, set to begin airing in 2017. They also announced their plans to produce two additional series, The Voice Kids and an untitled ITV2 spin-off, both also set to air in 2017. The last episode aired on the BBC on 9 April 2016. The ITV2 spin-off show was axed on 8 August 2016, but it could return in the future.
After speculation in February, the show's air date was confirmed on 10 March 2012. Of this announcement, the show's account said, "Two weeks from now, something new will be on your television, something so great you'll want to run up and kiss the screen. Just FYI." Britain's Got Talent judge Alesha Dixon confirmed the launch date for the Britain's Got Talent, with it being the same day as The Voice UK's. Britain's Got Talent was brought forward by ITV, so it could clash with the show. Of this move a BBC source said, "This is typical of ITV, parking their tanks on our lawn just as we launch a major new format. They are smarting because they didn't get the show although they bid £10 million more than us." However an ITV source responded saying, "We haven't declared our launch date but, if I was a betting man, I'd go for March 24. The BBC know we always launch BGT around this time. If anyone is parking tanks on a lawn, it's them on ours!" For the past four years however, Britain's Got Talent had launched in mid-April. The BBC and ITV were reportedly in a "scheduling war". BBC moved the show from its supposed 7:15 slot to 7:00, to avoid "significant overlap". ITV then responded by moving Britain's Got Talent from its original slot at 7:45 to 7:30. A BBC source said, "It is disappointing they chose to launch Britain's Got Talent on the same day as us. To not even meet us halfway on avoiding any sort of overlap is incredibly competitive."
As The Voice progressed, it became clear that audiences were staying loyal during the period when it clashed with Britain's Got Talent. After the third Blind Auditions round, when the BBC programme enjoyed a viewership margin of some four million, Simon Cowell and ITV executives moved their show to a later start time.
In an exclusive interview with Digital Spy, Cowell stated that the show is "competition" for Britain's Got Talent. He said, "I recognise [The Voice] as a challenge. The BBC must be confident because they have put it up against this show. They want to make a competition out of it. So we've got to make [Britain's Got Talent] better. Everyone benefits because of that." However, presenter Reggie Yates denied this: "I don't know if this is about toppling anyone. This is a very different animal altogether. I think when you see what this show is all about, you'll see exactly where we are coming from."
In 2013, the shows clashed again, this time with BGT starting in its usual mid-April Slot. Both shows went directly head to head with The Voice from 6.45-8.15 and BGT from 7-8.35. With BGT winning the war, The Voice moved to a later slot and for the rest of the run, only clashed with BGT for 10-15 minutes each week.
In 2016, the shows clashed again. The Voice’s BBC finale was moved back a week due to a Six Nations game which meant it clashed with the BGT launch. The Voice aired from 7-9 with BGT from 7-8.25. Whilst original schedules had The Voice from 6-8 and BGT from 8-9.20, the shows both changed to a 7.00 start time.
The first promotional item the BBC released was a video on the official website. It read, "Four of the biggest names in music are looking for incredible singing talent to compete for the title of The Voice UK. Only the most unique and distinctive voices will make it to the filmed auditions and get to sing for our celebrity coaches". To promote the show, all four coaches went to Central London launch event, which took place at Soho Hotel on 24 February 2012. Daily Mirror's Jo Usmar commented on the promotion of the show, stating that the trailer will "get you juices flowing". A further trailer was released on 9 March, featuring footage from the show, "including interviews with the panel, a first look at some contestants and bickering between the coaches".
According to Digital Spy, the BBC was trying to "boost audience participation with a wealth of social media and online activity, as viewers often watch programmes while also commenting and engaging via Twitter and Facebook on a smartphone, laptop or tablet". Telegraph Hill, having previously worked on BBC Three dramas Being Human and The Fades, put in place a full-time team of "social media creatives" who will generate online videos around the show, and on the show's Facebook and pages.
Auditions and filming
The producer auditions of series one began on 31 October 2011. Five events took place in London, two events in Birmingham, Glasgow, Manchester and Cardiff, and one event in Belfast. Solo artists and duos can participate, however, they must be aged sixteen or over. The coaches did not attend the producer's auditions. The standard of the auditions has been described as "amazing" and "top standard". The blind auditions for the first series were held at BBC Television Centre and has since been held at MediaCityUK, where every coach is given a "plush" dressing room. O'Donoghue told Digital Spy of the talent at the auditions, "The talent on show after the first auditions on the first day beat out any talent in any finals I've ever seen on television. The hair on the back of my neck and arms was standing up. 16 and 17-year-olds were up there killing it".