What happens when beloved programmes and stars leave the BBC

The Great British Bake Off is making the move from BBC to Channel 4, a path often take by stars and shows in search of pastures (and payslips) new.
Jonathan Ross saw his viewing figures plummet when he moved from the BBC to ITVJonathan Ross saw his viewing figures plummet when he moved from the BBC to ITV
Jonathan Ross saw his viewing figures plummet when he moved from the BBC to ITV

After ITV poached The Voice from the BBC, it’s beginning to look like the state broadcaster is losing its touch. But it’s not always a case of business as usual for the personalities and programmes that move.

Match of the Day

It was a bombshell when Match of the Day – a Bake Off-level national treasure – went off the air for the 2001/2 season. In its place, on ITV, sprang up the even more descriptively titled football highlights show The Premiership.

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Unlike Bake Off, it tooks its face with it, with Des Lynam jumping ship too, but he said it was “not an overwhelming success”.

Moving to 7pm, ITV’s offering peaked at 5 million viewers, significantly less than the 7 million who watched the rival Weakest Link on the BBC. It also ran into predictable difficulties with ad breaks, showing a limited amount of action compared to the BBC version, and it was shifted to 10.30pm before too long.

The programme lasted until 2004, when the trumpets of Match of the Day made their triumphant return – without Des Lynam.

The Jonathan Ross Show

Friday Night with Jonathan Ross on the BBC became The Jonathan Ross Show on ITV in 2010 after Ross left the corporation.

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It’s currently in its 11th season since 2011, which is reasonably good going. However, the numbers are nowhere near as good as they once were. His final episode for the BBC drew 4.3 million viewers, while audience figures dropped as low as 1.8 million. By comparison, Graham Norton, who took the BBC Friday night, still regularly hits 4 million.

Peston on Sunday

In 2015, the BBC’s idiosyncratic economics editor, Robert Peston, left the corporation after almost a decade to take up a new role at ITV.

The rumours at the time were that the move was driven by ambition – bordering on arrogance, according to a colleague who jokingly said he would “sell his kidney” to keep the journalist on the team.

It’s worked out well for Peston, however. Freed from the strictures of BBC News, he has become a high-profile political editor on ITV’s nightly bulletins as well as presenting the slower-paced Peston on Sunday.

Chiles and Bleakley

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After media speculation in 2010 that Adrian Chiles was going to be replaced on the One Show by Chris Evans – apparently a popular move in general at the BBC – he quit and headed for ITV, where he took up roles covering football and at ITV’s Daybreak programme. His One Show partner Christine Bleakley joined him at Daybreak after contract negotiations went south.

After 14 months of poor ratings and mixed reviews, they were replaced – although both have had success on other programmes for the channel since.

Top Gear/The Grand Tour

It’s a familiar (and bizarre) story: Jeremy Clarkson punched a producer for failing to bring him steak and, before we knew it, Joey from Friends was the new presenter. But it also shows that the BBC is not immune to the effects of talent-flight.

It kept the programme itself and installed Chris Evans and Matt Le Blanc as the new faces, but the chemistry wasn’t there. The ratings were bad in the first season without Clarkson, and Evans stood down as a result. The brand will live on, however, even if it’s been damaged.

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Meanwhile, Clarkson and co-hosts James May and Richard Hammond wound up making The Grand Tour for Amazon Prime, a move into big-beast American on-demand TV that could bode poorly for the BBC in the future.

Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos said the deal had been “very, very, very expensive”. The programme hasn’t landed yet, so the jury is still out on the return on investment.