Sky's coup in obtaining Time for Blackadder, starring Rowan Atkinson and Tony Robinson, is seen as immensely damaging for the BBC, only days after Sky signed a pounds 1m contract for a new series of Harry Enfield programmes, which will prevent the comedian making any more of his Harry Enfield and Chums series for the BBC this year.
The BBC angrily claimed Sky was wrong, and no Blackadder deal has been done. "Sky is completely out of control," said an insider. "After the deal with Harry Enfield it is trying to give the impression it's stealing away masses of BBC talent, but that's just not true."
The Millennium Experience, which commissioned the film, last night said discussions about television rights were continuing. A legal wrangle seems imminent, with Sky insisting in a formal statement: "We have a deal. We have agreed terms. We have a binding agreement. Time for Blackadder is coming to Sky Television and the BBC is obviously having difficulty coming to terms with their loss." Insiders said Sky has paid up to pounds 4m. The 30-minute film with an all-star cast, including supermodel Kate Moss as Maid Marion and Pride and Prejudice star Colin Firth as Shakespeare, will be shown in the Dome's Skyscape building all year. The writers are Ben Elton, and Richard Curtis, who wrote Notting Hill.