TV ratings: Pan Am is grounded

BBC defends schedule clash as glossy airline drama is wounded by The Killing


BBC2’s latest American import Pan Am has lost a million viewers in three days, with last night’s fourth episode, the second in a Saturday double bill, attracting 0.7m viewers according to overnight figures. It had debuted on Wednesday night with 1.7m viewers for episode one, 1.5m of whom watched episode two immediately afterwards.


Saturday night’s earlier episode, the third in the series, was seen by 0.9m viewers on BBC2 at 9.45pm.

The BBC had raised some eyebrows with its Saturday-night scheduling, which saw Pan Am go up against not just I’m A Celebrity – Get Me Out of Here! on ITV1, but also another high-profile BBC buy-in: series two of the massively acclaimed Danish detective drama The Killing. 

The unpretentious but gripping sleuther, starring Sofie Grabol, stormed back onto British screens with 0.8m viewers in a 9pm slot, up against The X Factor – very good business for BBC4, and almost double the number who saw the first episode of The Killing series one when it debuted on the channel in January.

The Killing is also being shown in double bills: 0.6m stuck with Sarah Lund’s latest case for episode two.

Pan Am has been tepidly received by critics – so is the Beeb burning it off already, by starting it on Wednesdays but then switching it to Saturdays, where it has to compete with one of the BBC’s own most prestigious acquisitions? Last night, the Corporation robustly defended Pan Am’s scheduling.

“Pan Am and The Killing are very different shows,” a spokesperson said, “and we feel that they offer viewers a choice alongside the news and Match of the Day on BBC1, and entertainment on ITV. BBC2 showed The Tudors at the same time as the first series of The Killing earlier this year and there was no evidence of splitting the audience. 


“In fact, both shows attracted consistently large audiences, which demonstrates that just because they are both acquired series, it doesn’t mean they will automatically appeal to all viewers. Conversely, it shows that we are catering for differing audience tastes and expectations.”