Millionaire show loses 2m viewers

ITV’s quiz show, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?, has lost two million viewers over the past year in what media buyers say is a serious downturn in its popularity.

During 1999, the show, presented by Chris Tarrant, drew an average audience of 14.5 million for each show. But the two series this year, in January and March, have attracted an average of just 12.7 million, according to BARB viewing figures. This represents a drop of some 15 per cent – worse than the 11 per cent year-on-year average decline across all ITV viewing.

ITV strongly denies the show is losing its appeal and says its average audience share for this year is 49.2 per cent, compared with 51 per cent last year. “The evidence just isn’t there – it holds its appeal,” says a spokeswoman, adding that the show is scheduled strategically to back the launch of other programmes: “It is a major contribution to the ITV schedule.”

Media buyers attribute the downturn to the show’s failure to produce a &£1m prize-winner, and say viewers are tiring of the format. But ITV says there is no link between the size of winnings and viewing figures.

Colm Feeney, broadcast director at Western International Media, says: “It’s like the National Lottery: people went mad for it until they realised the odds against winning the jackpot. We are starting to see the show being devalued by familiarity and the fact that nobody has won the big prize.”

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