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As ‘The Voice,’ ‘X Factor’ do battle, one’s armed with Britney Spears

THE X FACTOR: L-R: Britney Spears SimCowell Demi LovaL.A. Reid. CR: Nino Munoz / FOX.

THE X FACTOR: L-R: Britney Spears, Simon Cowell, Demi Lovato and L.A. Reid. CR: Nino Munoz / FOX.

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Updated: October 13, 2012 6:03AM

Television singing competitions all end the same way: with a winner being crowned.

The same can be said for the shows themselves, and this fall’s smackdown pits “The Voice” against “The X Factor.”

Both programs will air during the same season for the first time. Which one will reign supreme?

My money’s on “The Voice,” which debuted Monday and came out swinging with a last-minute scheduling change. NBC decided to draw out “The Voice’s” season premiere this week for three nights instead of two, conveniently overlapping with Wednesday’s launch of “The X Factor” on Fox.

Simon Cowell was rock-blocked, and he wasn’t happy about it.

“It’s a spoiling tactic,” Cowell said. “I think it’s mean-spirited, and I hope and I pray that it backfires on them.”

Sounds like sour grapes are what the “X Factor” creator and judge is feasting on this season. Last year, it was humble pie. That’s when Cowell boldly — and in retrospect, foolishly — predicted the first season of “The X Factor” would pull in 20 million viewers. It came in closer to 12 million — a respectable showing, albeit roughly 2 million shy of what “The Voice” averaged in its sophomore season earlier this year.

“The Voice” bowed Monday to lower numbers than the previous season’s start, but that was to be expected; last time, it kicked off after the Super Bowl. Some 12 million tuned into Monday’s episode, which saw De’Borah of Chicago Heights and Gracia Harrison of Downstate Virden make it through the first round of blind auditions.

While “The Voice” has tinkered a bit with its format this time around — expanding the teams to 16 contestants and allowing coaches to steal singers from one another — it’s largely the same show, with the same panel of musically diverse star power sitting in its spinning red chairs: Christina Aguilera, Adam Levine, Blake Shelton and Cee Lo Green.

For this season of “X Factor,” Cowell cleaned house. He canned ineffectual host Steve Jones and has vowed to replace him with an as yet unnamed pair, most likely a man and a woman. TMZ reported Tuesday that Khloe Kardashian is a likely host.

“It’s just too boring, as Ryan [Seacrest, ‘American Idol’ host] demonstrated, for one person just to say everything,” Cowell said. Oh, snap!

Cowell sent fellow judges Paula Abdul and Nicole Scherzinger packing, replacing them with the younger and more bankable Britney Spears, 30, and Demi Lovato, 19. (“The Voice” has bested “X Factor” for coveted 18- to 49-year-old viewers and helped lift NBC out of last place, ahead of ABC, in this key demo for the 2011-12 season.)

Spears will help “X Factor” offset “The Voice’s” pop princess, Aguilera. The latter starred alongside Spears as a child in “The Mickey Mouse Club.” Now that they’re on dueling shows, the stage is set for a catfight between a couple of ex-Mouseketeers.

“The No. 1 person I always wanted on one of these shows was Britney because I was fascinated with her as a person,” Cowell said during a TV critics gathering this summer in Beverly Hills.

Spears, Lovato and Cowell, along with returning judge L.A. Reid, spoke to critics via satellite from Miami, where “X Factor” was in the middle of filming boot camp rounds. A visibly bored Spears talked about her new gig with all the enthusiasm of someone waiting to renew her driver’s license at the DMV.

“I’ve done eight tours and I’ve been in the music industry for a while,” Spears said. “Being able to be on a show where you can give back and help people achieve their dream is just really interesting to me.”

And really good for giving your own career a shot in the arm?

“That’s not my intention,” Spears said unconvincingly. “It’s purely just on the fact that, you know, I love the show.”

Cowell had better hope her fans do, too, or he’ll be eating crow.

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