Desmond bids to capture Top of the Pops
Tuesday 28 December 2010
It is the formerly much-loved music show that the BBC now only dusts off for special occasions. But the Corporation has vowed to block an audacious bid by the media magnate Richard Desmond to relaunch Top of the Pops on Channel 5.
This year's BBC1 Christmas Day special is expected to be the last outing for the weekly chart show, which was shelved in 2006 after 42 years.
Mr Desmond, who bought Channel 5 for £103.5m in July, believes that a revived Top of the Pops could become a live, primetime, entertainment hit.
The publisher, whose Northern & Shell company owns the Daily Express and Star titles as well as OK!, is a big rock fan, a drummer, and a friend of The Who singer Roger Daltrey.
Mr Desmond, who also owns a number of lucrative satellite pornography channels, has vowed to invest £300m in Channel 5's programming, and promised big-name acquisitions. He is said to be willing to offer a "substantial sum" for the rights to Top of the Pops.
Sources declined to elaborate on why the BBC would refuse to sell Top of the Pops to Mr Desmond. However, BBC Worldwide, which owns the brand, said that it would not enter into negotiations with him. Paul Dempsey, who oversees BBC Worldwide's Audio & Music division and is the "guardian" of Top of the Pops, said: "I don't think we would lead that discussion, from a BBC perspective. It's a brand that is very precious to the BBC and they have got no intention of it being in anyone else's hands."
Top of the Pops' viewing figures fell from 15 million in its mid-1970s heyday to 1 million, and Mr Dempsey said that the download generation requires a different sort of show.
"Audiences had fallen to quite low levels. The younger generation expects music in a different way," he said. "It's difficult because from the outside it does look like there's an obvious opportunity. But there are reasons why it's no longer on our screens."
The BBC is under pressure to "use or lose" the show. The annual New Year's Eve special has been scrapped this year and BBC insiders want to replace the Christmas Day show with a new music show. But the Top of the Pops Christmas Day special, featuring Coldplay, was seen by 4 million viewers, showing continuing affection.
The BBC has asked record companies to help it create a new regular show, described as a "Top Gear for music". The show would feature video exclusives and artist interviews and could run on BBC Three, the youth channel.
Mr Dempsey described Top of the Pops as "resting... It's certainly a brand that has a lot of consumer affection and I think at the right time we'd be hopeful of finding some opportunity for that brand. It's about timing".
The greatest effect of Mr Desmond's arrival at Channel 5 so far has been major cost-cutting, resulting in a raft of executives leaving. Now that the broadcaster has returned to operating at a profit, its owner says he is ready to "go toe-to-toe with the biggest players in the TV world". Mr Desmond has also set his sights on Coronation Street as a possible target. But negotiations to relaunch Big Brother on Channel 5 stalled when agreement could not be reached with producers Endemol.
If Desmond cannot buy the Top of the Pops brand he will acquire classic episodes from its archive. Channel 5 screened the 1985 Christmas Top of the Pops, starring Slade, on Boxing Day.
Simon Cowell has announced that he is also working on a new, Saturday night music show for ITV, putting greater pressure on the BBC to come up with a new format.
game of thrones reviewWarning: spoilers
North London meets The Exorcist in eerie suburban drama
Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year
Arts & Ents blogs
- 2 The man who filmed the Freddie Gray video has been arrested at gunpoint
- 4 How the language you speak changes your view of the world
The C-Word - review: Sheridan Smith shines in a warm, honest adaptation of Lisa Lynch's book about living with cancer
X-Men Apocalypse: First look at Jubilee and Jean Grey played by Game of Thrones star Sophie Turner
American Horror Story: Hotel Angela Bassett set to make 'lots of trouble' with Lady Gaga in season 5
Game of Thrones season 5 episode 4 - review: Sansa is in danger of becoming another footnote in Westeros' bloody history
Adam Sandler's The Ridiculous Six: Make-up 'used to darken skin of actors to make them look Native American'
Over 50,000 families shipped out of London boroughs in the past three years due to welfare cuts and soaring rents
EU asylum policy is 'a direct threat to our civilisation', says Nigel Farage
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: SNP and its activists 'openly racist' towards the English, Farage says
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
Schools forced to act as 'miniature welfare states' with teachers buying underwear and even haircuts for poor pupils