When NBC's The Voice returns next season, it will be bigger than ever. There will be more blind audition rounds, in which singers perform for the coaches sight unseen, and 12 contestants per team, up from Season 1's eight.
It's not yet clear exactly how many more blind audition episodes will air — they ran for two weeks earlier this year — but executive producer Mark Burnett says the decision to expand came from viewer feedback and having more time to produce them. "We put the show on so quickly last year. We only had four months," he told TVGuide.com after a press conference Friday. "And the biggest complaint that we got was, 'Awww, the blind auditions ended so early.' It was a quick blip. So I managed to make a lot more blind auditions and clearly we're responding to what our fans are asking for."
Series coaches — Adam Levine, Christina Aguilera, Cee Lo Green and Blake Shelton — told reporters they remain unworried about the glut of music shows. The Voice returns in February after the Super Bowl, and after The X Factor wraps in December, but it will still have to contend with a new season of American Idol. Aguilera says The Voice's process when it comes to selecting singers -- the coaches listening only to a performer's voice and then swinging around in those huge red chairs — remains unmatched. "There's not a more suspenseful TV show out there," she said. (Burnett added: "These chairs have become stars in their own right.")
Asked specifically about the similarities to Simon Cowell's X Factor, Burnett told TVGuide.com he'd only seen "maybe 10 minutes" of the show. "They certainly spent a lot of money, it's certainly big. I don't think it's different from anything else I've seen," he said. So while X Factor will award its winner with a $5 million recording contract, The Voice will stick with its $100,000. "Do you know what that reminds me of? It reminds of Austin Powers. 'One meeeellion dollars,'" Burnett said. "I mean, people aren't watching the show for that."
As for the new crop of Voice contestants — all selected now that the show has finished filming Season 2's blind auditions -- the coaches say they got extra competitive when it came to filling out their rosters. "We know the game now. It's an intense competition this year," Aguilera said. She boasted that her team includes an opera singer "who makes you cry."
"You sit there wondering why these people don't have record contracts," she said.
Those contestants are also savvier than ever when it comes to picking who they want to work with. "Now, they're all like, 'What can you do for me?'" Aguilera said. "They know how it works" when more than one of the coaches want in. "All of a sudden, we're the ones pitching ourselves," Levine said.
Season 2 of The Voice returns Sunday, Feb. 5 after the Super Bowl on NBC.