ITV has put the ball firmly in the BBC’s court ahead of another potential Saturday-night ratings clash, by confirming the start times of every episode of the new series of The X Factor in advance.
Peter Fincham, the commercial network’s director of programmes, said the traditional scheduling tussle between The X Factor and Strictly Come Dancing was not serving viewers, telling the Edinburgh Television Festival “our audience tell us they don’t want those two shows to overlap”.
Fincham suggested the BBC had already tried to scupper The X Factor’s plans when publishing the draft seven-day BBC1 schedule for the week commencing Saturday 5th September.
He said of the so-called schedule “exchange”, which happens as a matter of routine between the broadcasters: “So on Saturday week there’s a Strictly Come Dancing launch show and a third X Factor audition show. We had a first exchange which had the X Factor show starting exactly when the Strictly show ended.
“That revealed to each broadcaster what we were doing. In the second exchange, they moved Strictly twenty minutes later. I don’t know why they did that, no reason for doing that but that feels to me like an avoidable clash. It feels to me a bit like ‘let’s clip the X Factor’s wings’.
“This really matters to us, because we’re a commercial business. I know from my own time at the BBC, it’s a bit of a game to be honest.
“What we’re going to do is literally publish the X Factor start times [for] this autumn… because all the evidence we have is that our audiences don’t want the two to overlap.”
BBC director of television Danny Cohen hit back when asked by session host Kay Burley to respond and commit to avoiding a clash between the two shows.
Cohen said: “We notice this happens all the time; Emmerdale will find itself in a double bill against EastEnders with astonishing regularity.
“I’m sure there’s no reason for that. There’s to-ing and fro-ing. We don’t look for it.”
However Cohen refused to guarantee that there would not be a future clash between The X Factor and Strictly Come Dancing when the two programmes start this autumn.
“Some of our start times are affected around when live sport happens. In the same way Peter won’t guarantee he won’t have an Emmerdale double bill up against EastEnders… these clashes happen sometimes.”