ITV’s top-rated Beatles show fails to calm agency nerves

The Fab Four boosted ITV primetime viewing to its highest level this year, although ITV celebrations have been tempered by agency concern about its Christmas schedule.

The Beatles Anthology attracted 14 million viewers – more than 15 million when video viewing is included – according to unofficial overnight viewing data, ITV Network Centre claims.

Along with Heartbeat (16.2 million) and London’s Burning (14.3 million), the Sunday schedule gave ITV a 57.6 per cent share of available peaktime audience compared with 20.6 per cent for BBC1.

However, a number of agencies say they are unconvinced by ITV’s Christmas schedule, unveiled last week. They voice concern at plans to broadcast a number of festive repeats alongside new drama, including Brother Cadfael and the latest Ruth Rendell mystery.

The schedule lacks big-name feature films and relies too heavily on “repeated programmes apparently being used as fillers – such as an old Heartbeat and Taggart”, according to one buyer.

Poldark, which had been scheduled for Christmas Day, has been postponed – reportedly because of fears about its quality.

Channel 4 is planning another “alternative” festive schedule with a season of programmes focusing on man’s relationship with animals – including programmes on the export of live calves, abandoned pets and a debate on whether apes should be granted basic “human” rights.

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