By Bill Keveney, USA TODAY
This year, The Voice is a horse race.
With NBC's hit singing competition down to four finalists (performance finale tonight, 8 ET/PT), executive producer Mark Burnett says it's wide open.
"You have no idea who's going to win. From the blind auditions last year, there were a lot of people thinking that possibly (eventual winner Javier Colon) was going to win it," he says. "This year, I could see every reason any of them could win."
On tonight's show, Tony Lucca, Chris Mann, Jermaine Paul and Juliet Simms will sing solo and then duet with their respective coaches. A winner will be announced Tuesday (9 p.m. ET/PT).
Colon has not made a big dent in the music business, but Burnett says he believes a Voice winner could become a star. "What's most important is that we have an incredible level of talent and a tense competition."
The Voice already is a ratings winner. It averages 14.8 million viewers on Mondays, more than doubling the previous time-period performance. It has averaged 9.6 million for the Tuesday results show.
After the popular blind auditions in front of coaches Christina Aguilera, CeeLo Green, Adam Levine and Blake Shelton, however, the show's audience has declined. Last week, American Idol, which attracts more viewers overall, edged The Voice for the season among young adults (ages 18 to 49).
"It's good that they've increased audience (in the) second year," says analyst Brad Adgate of ad buyer Horizon Media. But "there's got to be some concern that the numbers have tailed off a bit. You just wonder if demand isn't that great for another hour on Tuesday."
With many singers making it to the later rounds, viewers may have trouble focusing on a few favorites, says Atlanta Journal-Constitution blogger Rodney Ho, who follows the singing shows. "I don't feel as invested in singers I don't see as much."
Paul Telegdy, who oversees NBC's reality programming, attributes declines to longer daylight hours and the return of popular shows, such as Dancing With the Stars, but says The Voice has exceeded expectations. "I don't think anybody expected us to be in close contention for the No. 1 entertainment series in (young) adults, so we're thrilled."