Ian Burrell: Evans fails to ginger up The One Show
On the radar
Thursday 23 September 2010
Since Chris Evans took over the Friday night slot on BBC1's The One Show, the viewers haven't just forgotten their toothbrushes – they haven't remembered to tune in at all. Maybe they've taken their dentures out and gone up for an early night?
According to the BBC's meticulously planned strategy, the red-topped king of early-Nineties television was supposed to provide a high-octane Friday launch pad to a weekend of pulsating entertainment on the BBC's flagship channel. But since Evans made his television comeback last month, the ratings are down by more than a quarter from when chunky Adrian Chiles was on the sofa.
Parachuting Evans into the Friday night schedule was the key decision that caused Chiles to stomp off to ITV, taking Christine Bleakley with him. Jay Hunt, the BBC1 controller, told the Edinburgh International Television Festival at the end of last month that during the negotiations to keep Chiles, he had been "given the offer of work that a lot of presenters would give their back teeth for". But the supposed chat show that was being developed for him was more accurately a late-night panel programme – hardly Parkinson.
The Brummie presenter was depicted as a mercenary for filling his boots with a £1m-a-year deal from ITV's director of television, Peter Fincham – but now, Hunt herself is quitting the BBC to go to Channel 4 and up her salary from £260,000 to almost £400,000. Is she worth it? Well, Hunt has been repeatedly tipped as the first female director-general of the BBC. David Abraham, her new boss at Channel 4, sees her as "a fearless creative leader" and the Daily Telegraph recently described her as "certainly the most highly regarded TV executive of her generation".
But the Evans appointment – apparently on a £12,000-per-show deal – might not have been her best call. The 5.04m audience that tuned into Chiles's final Friday edition of The One Show has evaporated to an average of 3.71m since Evans took over. Last Friday, it plumbed new depths at 3.53m. The BBC says it is happy and Chiles and Bleakley pulled only 3.61m this time last year.
We shouldn't write the ginger one off just yet. But this episode does rather question whether television bosses are quite as brilliantly intuitive as they collectively like to imply. Fincham, having lured Chiles and Bleakley over to the other side, has plonked them into the schedule at breakfast time, where they have struggled to make an impact hosting Daybreak. Meanwhile, staff on Daybreak tell me they have been told that presenters are not seen as a key factor in determining the audience for such shows. The public is being royally serviced.
* It's the most invasive procedure that doesn't involve a pair of plastic gloves: having unsolicited adverts delivered to your mobile phone. But finally, a model may be emerging which makes a commercial message on your hand-held feel less like a slap in the face. It might even become a force for good that revolutionises the charity sector.
A start-up called Frudoo is offering 5p for every texted ad you agree to receive, and promising that you will be sent messages from advertisers only in sectors that you express an interest in. The money is sent to a PayPal account or to a nominated charity. Texts are limited to four a day to ensure high response rates. Frudoo founding partner Rupert Gravelle says: "70 per cent of the public are prepared to get messages on their mobiles as long as they are in control of the messaging they receive."
In New Zealand, HooHaa has grown an 80,000-user base with a similar model. Frudoo's challenge is in convincing consumers that their data will be secure and not released to third parties. The company's first charity partner is Centrepoint, but users will be offered the chance to donate to any charity, making donations far less painful than those exacted by bib-wearing students who accost you in the shopping precinct.
* No one who read the adventures of the snooty cartoon character Alex when he featured in early editions of The Independent as a symbol of Thatcherite excess would have expected him to get his own radio show, certainly not as the host of a classical music programme. And maybe he never should have. The actor Robert Bathurst's portrayal of City banker Alex Masterley, who now appears in The Daily Telegraph, has become a bizarre Sunday night fixture on Classic FM. "Alex, try harder," warns the banker's Telegraph colleague, the radio critic Gillian Reynolds. "Radio is trickier than you think."
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