The Voice v Britain's Got Talent: scheduling wars recommence

BBC and ITV resume annual hostilities over Saturday night talent shows, with times moved and overlapping around 7pm slot

In a move that is almost as predictable as the clocks going forward, the BBC and ITV have resumed hostilities over the scheduling of their Saturday night talent shows, The Voice and Britain's Got Talent.

Schedules exchanged between the two broadcasters on Wednesday revealed that ITV had scheduled the first episode of the new series of Britain's Got Talent, on 13 April, at 7pm, directly against BBC1's The Voice. Last year the Simon Cowell talent show started in a later 8pm slot.

BBC insiders accused ITV of spoiling tactics for the second year in a row and in response the corporation has moved The Voice, due to air at 7pm, 15 minutes earlier to 6.45pm.

But there will still be an 80-minute overlap between the two shows when Britain's Got Talent comes back.

A BBC insider said: "ITV's move is disappointing because it's not in the best interests of viewers.

"Britain's Got Talent has started at 8pm for the last three years which enabled viewers to watch both shows, it's a shame they can't this year."

The Voice returned for its second series with 6.2 million viewers last Saturday, losing out to Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway and down from the 8.4 million viewers who watched its first series launch last year.

But an ITV insider said Britain's Got Talent had aired in a spring slot since 2006 and if the BBC had wanted to avoid a clash with the show, also fronted by Ant and Dec, it should have scheduled The Voice at a different time of year.

"Splash and Saturday Night Takeaway have done very well at 7pm and Britain's Got Talent is following that pattern," said the ITV insider.

"The Voice is a 90-minute show, to avoid any clash whatsoever would mean putting Britain's Got Talent out at 8.30pm and not coming off air until after 10pm when our younger audience has gone to bed."

The Voice and Britain's Got Talent were the focus of a prolonged scheduling tit-for-tat last year, with Cowell memorably telling the BBC to "get their sense of humour back".

The Voice took the lead in the ratings war between the two shows last year before fading away in the second half of its run.

It will be into its third episode by the time Britain's Got Talent returns, when it will hope to have built up sufficient viewer loyalty to withstand the Cowell juggernaut.

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John Plunkett

The GuardianTramp

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