The big changes to ITV News pose some challenges for the BBC. From later this spring, the ITV News at 6.30pm will be an hour long. It also means ITV’s two big soaps will be rescheduled.
For ITV the new arrangements offer three potential advantages.
The extended news bolsters their public service credentials. The scheduling of the soaps becomes more streamlined. And there are now only three thirty minute slots to “fill” in the early evening.
Of course changes like these are not risk-free. Fans of the soaps may take a while to get used to the new timings.
But what are the implications for the BBC?
The first risk is that it could look bad politically – the commercial PSB will have more news in peak than the public service broadcaster.
Of course, The One Show includes some serious items and current affairs but it is an informal magazine show. If remains to be seen if the extended ITV News will include more features and “human stories” similar to The One Show’s or if there will also be more hard news.
However The One Show could still potentially benefit. Its ratings could improve as regional news viewers will no longer be lured over to Emmerdale at 7.
But the real threat is to EastEnders aka Britain’s number three soap. As we all know, its ratings in recent years have been disappointing.
The new schedule means ITV will be showing either Emmerdale or Corrie in all 4 of EastEnders’ regular slots.
Clearly this has the potential to seriously harm ratings – even in the age of catch-up. Could radical changes to the BBC One schedule prove necessary?
Could EastEnders move to 7pm displacing The One Show to 7.30pm? Or could even more fundamental questions eventually prove necessary?
The audience may have become fragmented but the battle between BBC One and ITV still matters. Their ratings dwarf those of other channels.
ITV could have put a real cat amongst the pigeons.
Watch this space.
PICTURED: ITV News. COPYRIGHT: ITV plc.