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BBC1 bounces rival

Web builds on 2001 ratings win over ITV

LONDON — BBC flagship station BBC1 increased its lead over its main commercial rival, ITV1, in 2002. BBC1 achieved an all-hours audience share of 26.2% compared with ITV’s 24.1%.

Win reps only the second time the pubcaster has beaten ITV and cements 2001’s victory for BBC1, when the web overtook ITV by a single percentage point.

In peak time, however, ITV remained in pole position, although BBC1 closed the gap to 3.2% from 5.5% a year earlier.

BBC1’s success highlights the huge task facing new ITV programming chief Nigel Pickard, who takes over in February.

Much of BBC1’s lead stems from ITV1’s problems in daytime and the fading performance of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” and “Blind Date.”

ITV opens checkbook

But Pickard will have several important advantages over his predecessor, David Liddiment.

ITV’s owners, Granada and Carlton, are spending more on the schedule as the prospects for an advertising recovery continue to gather pace.

Their merger, which is awaiting regulatory approval, would also make ITV more competitive.

Another point in Pickard’s favor is that BBC director general Greg Dyke is shifting BBC1 upmarket.

Investing heavily in drama and entertainment has helped improve BBC1’s ratings performance, but politically it has left the pubcaster vulnerable to accusations that it is failing in its public duty to provide genuinely distinctive programs.

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