ITV could reschedule The Nightly Show and bring back the News at Ten after ratings crash by more than half

As ITV's news at 10:30pm dips below 1m viewers in its new slot, serious questions are being asked of the entertainment show that has replaced it at 10pm

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ITV’s decision to move the News at Ten from its traditional slot in favour of new weekday satirical series The Nightly Show appears to have backfired after the entertainment format, fronted in its first week by David Walliams, lost more than half its viewers between Monday and Tuesday nights.

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An opening night average audience of 2.8 million crashed to just 1.2 million the following evening (on ITV and ITV HD), raising the uncomfortable possibility that ITV’s director of programmes Kevin Lygo may be forced to consider bringing the News at Ten back earlier than planned, according to a source at the network.

“If it continues to tank in the ratings then he will have no choice,” said the source. 

RadioTimes.com understands that ITV is almost certain not to pull the show completely from the schedules as it has contracted further guest presenters for the eight-week run, including Bradley Walsh, Mel and Sue and John Bishop.

Executives say they are hopeful that Bishop – “a very different kind of comedian to Walliams” according to one – will revive the show’s fortunes when he takes over presenting duties next week.

However it is clear that moving The Nightly Show to the later slot of 10:30pm is very much a possibility over the coming days.

ITV’s political editor Robert Peston has already flagged up the potential of a return for the News at Ten in its old slot before The Nightly Show finishes its planned run of 40 shows, saying: “The simple point is that if it goes incredibly well, then that’s great for the news because it will bring us a bigger audience at 10:30pm. And if it doesn’t, then the truth is we’ll revert back to 10 o’clock.”

Lygo’s hopes for a ratings boost in the 10pm slot, and a dent in the audience of the BBC’s 10pm News, have initially been dashed by the latest figures.

On Monday night, the BBC’s 10pm news programme had an audience of 4.1m and a 24.6% audience share. On Tuesday night, it recorded 4.2 m viewers and a 24.5% share.

Last week ITV’s News at Ten averaged a combined audience of just under 3m viewers. On Monday night, in its new 10:30pm slot, it drew just 1.5m, with that figure dropping to 913,000 the following night.

Before The Nightly Show aired, ITN executives were anxious that Lygo might not wish to bring the news back to its 10pm slot at all if the new entertainment format was a success.

In fact, he felt compelled to visit ITN’s headquarters and offered private assurance to staff at the ITV News provider that he would bring the 10pm news bulletin back when the Nightly Show finishes its run in eight weeks’ time.

The decision to move the news went down badly at ITN where journalists and executives are worried that it will damage the show’s reputation.

According to some it is a painful reminder of the “News at When?” fiasco in 1999 when ITV tinkered with the schedules and put its nightly news bulletin on at different times – at (and often around) 11pm to pave the way for football, blockbuster drama and other events. This followed the BBC’s successful move of its main evening bulletin from 9pm to 10pm where it has maintained ratings supremacy ever since.

Each week a new presenter will front The Nightly Show which is loosely modelled on James Corden’s The Late Late Show, a programme against which the British version has drawn unflattering comparisons from critics and viewers.

Gordon Ramsay is due to front a week of the show, with Jack Whitehall, Sarah Millican, Davina McCall and Mel & Sue said to be lined up for the following weeks.

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Monday night’s show, hosted by David Walliams, featured guests Doc Martin star Martin Clunes and ventriloquist Nina Conti, while Tuesday’s programme welcomed Sex and the City’s Kim Cattrall and comedian Katherine Ryan.