It has all the hallmarks of a classic grudge match: high stakes and a bitter, long-term rivalry. However this particular clash is not going down in a stadium in Stratford, it's the on-going battle of ratings between the BBC and ITV. And with its Olympics coverage, Auntie is thrashing the competition.
Sunday saw ITV1 have its worst ever single day ratings performance, its all-day audience share even being eclipsed by BBC3 for the first time ever. ITV1 is also understood to have suffered its worst week on record.
But how do you take on the Olympics in a country gripped with sporting fever? Let's take a look at the competition. In the BBC's corner are the world's finest sportsmen and women competing in our very own capital. ITV appear to have thought its best strategy was to send in some of the world's finest detectives.
On Sunday night you could have watched in awe as Usain Bolt made history on the BBC by breaking the 100 metres Olympic record, streaking down the track in just 9.63 seconds. Alternatively you could have seen Detective Inspector Jack Frost's swansong in the two-part finale of A Touch of Frost (see above). A repeat that aired two years ago. Have ITV just given up? Surely it's the scheduling equivalent of putting, well, David Jason into the starting blocks with the Jamaican sprinter. Predictably enough, at 9.50pm on Sunday, 1.6 million were tuned into ITV while 19.4 million were glued to the BBC watching Bolt.
On Sunday afternoon, as the BBC showed Andy Murray take Olympic gold by denying Roger Federer a second victory in as many months on Centre Court, ITV rolled out Jessica Fletcher (Murder, She Wrote) and Columbo.
ITV was reluctant to talk about its scheduling strategy when approached for an interview. On being asked if detective dramas had proved popular with sport dodgers in the past, it merely stated that its soaps were still being shown and, yes, they have put on a number of repeats.
Saturday evening, dubbed the greatest night in British athletics history, saw 16.3 million watch Jessica Ennis' triumphant finale to the heptathlon, while 17.1 million saw Mo Farah's gold-winning 10,000 metre performance. Had you switched over to ITV you would have been greeted with, that's right, more crime-solving. Repeats of Agatha Christie's Marple and Midsomer Murders made up its Saturday night entertainment. Although it should be noted that elsewhere on "Super Saturday" other competitions were taking place: Made in Chelsea's Hugo and Binky took on The Million Pound Drop (Channel 4), while contestants fought it out in Big Brother over on Five. No doubt the BBC wasn't sweating it.
So hooked is the nation with Olympic coverage that presumably ITV could schedule a new series of The X-Factor , followed by Ken Barlow's death in Coronation Street and some porn, and everyone would still prefer to watch the Greco-Roman wrestling quarter finals. It's almost enough to make you feel sorry for them. They never stood a chance.
9.63 seconds: What was on BBC1 and ITV1 at exactly 9.50pm on Sunday?
BBC1 – 100m final
Steve Cram: "Bolt not very quickly out of the blocks... Powell was the quickest. But Bolt is getting into his stride alongside Gatlin. Here comes Bolt - he's pulling away...
(Man in yellow vest deliberately smashes self into finish line at full speed.)
ITV1 – A Touch of Frost
(Jack Frost arrives at his wedding)
Police officer: "Here you are Jack." (Hands him corsage)
Jack Frost: "Oh, thank you."
(Man in red Land Rover deliberately smashes car into Jack's at full speed.)
- More about:
- Actors And Actresses
- Athletics, Track And Field
- Olympic Stadium
- Running (sport)
- Sprint Running
- Usain Bolt