British commercial television network ITV has taken the highly unusual step of revealing part of its autumn schedule nearly three months in advance in a bid to avoid a clash of costume-drama epics with the BBC.
One of the highlights of flagship channel ITV1’s forthcoming line-up is a three-part adaptation of Dr Zhivago by Boris Pasternak, into which the broadcaster has poured £8 million ($12.5m; €12.6m).
However, the Beeb has invested in a period piece of its own, adapting Daniel Deronda by George Eliot, raising fears that the two shows could be transmitted simultaneously.
Three years ago, the two broadcasters scheduled Oliver Twist (ITV1) and Wives & Daughters (BBC1) against each other, dividing the costume-drama audience.
The commercial network is eager to avoid a repeat performance, and is also concerned that the BBC is becomingly increasingly aggressive in its scheduling, deliberately running ratings winners against ITV1’s upmarket dramas.
ITV has therefore announced that the show is slated for November 24 and cannot be moved as it has already been sold to advertisers.
Making a beeline for the moral high-ground, ITV declared: “We’re sure the BBC will want to avoid a clash as much as we do – these are two high quality dramas which will be a highlight for viewers this autumn.”
The BBC, however, appeared unimpressed. “The slot they want to put Dr Zhivago in is the slot where we play our costume drama,” riposted a spokesman. “We have Daniel Deronda waiting to go. Our duty is to schedule our programmes in the best interest of viewers.”
Data sourced from: multiple sources; additional content by WARC staff