CAMPAIGNS: Public Sector - Top spot for BBC in Xmas ratings war

Client: BBC1

PR Team: In-house

Campaign: Christmas schedule

Timescale: December

Budget: Undisclosed

BBC1 has won the Christmas ratings battle with ITV - with the exception

of 2000 - for the past 15 years. And since last Christmas was the first

showcase for the effects of an extra £100m given to BBC

programming for the year, seasonal ratings failure would have been

doubly disastrous.

The Lost World, the popular family drama that married family tea-time

viewing with Walking With Dinosaurs technology, was perhaps the clearest

indication of where the money was spent.


To gain coverage in publications across the board was the PR team's main

concern. The team was helped by director-general Greg Dyke's belief that

a proactive approach to programme PR is crucial.

Although listings magazines such as Radio Times and TVTimes always give

BBC1 programmes substantial coverage, the BBC wanted to extend this to

other areas.

Strategy and Plan

Unlike ITV, which has a press event to launch only its winter schedule,

BBC1 gave its Christmas programming equal billing at its own winter

season launch in the first week of December. The lunchtime event allowed

the media access to performers, including Lenny Henry and Stephen


Publicity for the Christmas schedule was based around the first new

episode of Only Fools and Horses for five years, The Lost World and the

Christmas Day blockbuster movie, Toy Story.

Since the Only Fools and Horses cast was unavailable for promotion,

activity focused on providing quality still images of the Trotters in

Monte Carlo - although a leak of news that ITV had gone back on an

agreement to allow Del Boy onto Who Wants to be a Millionaire? for the

new episode provided welcome press coverage. The Lost World was

completed early in 2001, allowing the in-house team time to facilitate

location reports and star interviews.

Measurement and Evaluation

The BBC is keen to dispel the idea that it is aimed at middle-class

families living in the south-east and targeted local media outlets for

Christmas. A day of regional radio interviews by The Lost World star

James Fox were deemed key to build interest among a broad audience.

Cover pictures for The Lost World and Only Fools and Horses were

achieved on TV guides from The Sun to The Guardian, as well as


Gossip and entertainment magazine Heat carried BBC1 programmes as its

'picks of the day' for Christmas Day.


BBC1's traditional Christmas dominance in the ratings war came at the

end of a remarkable year in which its audience share across 12 months

was above ITV1's for the first time.

According to unofficial Barb figures, BBC1 had 26.8 per cent compared

with ITV1's 26.7 per cent.

Only Fools and Horses attracted 20.3 million viewers on Christmas Day.

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