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Sunday, 19 August, 2001, 14:50 GMT 15:50 UK
Weakest Link trounces Premiership
Des Lynam and Anne Robinson
The two hosts faced a Saturday night ratings fight
The BBC's Weakest Link "reality TV" special has beaten ITV's Premiership coverage during their Saturday night peak-time viewing clash, gaining 2.4m more viewers.

Saturday night's TV audience had to choose between the shows, which clashed during the prime-time 7pm slot usually reserved for light entertainment.

ITV recently announced its main football programme would be shown on Saturday evenings, taking over from the BBC's Match of the Day which lost the rights to screen Premiership highlights last year.

Des and the team were in great form and we're looking forward to the rest of the season

ITV spokesman
But the move proved to be only partially successful, with the show gaining 4.3 million viewers, compared with the BBC's 6.7 million viewers.

A further 1.1 million people watched the late night edition of ITV's programme at 11.45pm - compared with an average of 3.2 million who watched the film Escape from Alcatraz on BBC One.

The combined audience for ITV's two programmes was well ahead of the four million viewers Match of the Day used to attract, but not enough to beat the seven million who used to watch ITV entertainment programmes such as Blind Date at 7pm.

A BBC spokesman said: "We are really pleased with how our Saturday night schedule performed and our entertainment shows have done well across the summer.

Nicholas Bateman
Nick Bateman: Won the Weakest Link
"We feel we are offering viewers a choice and they can look forward to more goodies in our new Autumn season of programmes."

An ITV spokesman said it was a "good start" for The Premiership.

"Des and the team were in great form and we're looking forward to the rest of the season," he said.

He added that The Premiership's 1.1 million late-night viewers had beaten the 800,000 who watched the Match of the Day repeat on Sunday mornings.

The Weakest Link, broadcast initially on the BBC, now has a global audience of millions, with its caustic host Anne Robinson gaining cult figure status.

The show saw "Nasty" Nick Bateman, who was outsted from the first Big Brother series for cheating, win the show and donate 10,000 to the Cancer Research Fund.

We are really pleased with how our Saturday night schedule performed

BBC spokesman
Des Lynam, who was the face of Match of the Day until he left the BBC in 1999, made several references to the fact that he was delighted with the ITV show's new slot, which included an extended late-night repeat at 11.45pm.

He began The Premiership by saying: "New season, new show, new time. Better for you, better for all of us."

He was joined in the studio by former England coach Terry Venables, also a former BBC favourite, retired Scottish striker Ally McCoist, football pundit Gabby Logan (formerly Yorath) and former Irish international Andy Townsend.

However some observers have already pointed out the lack of highlights in the early show.

Penny Ellis
Ellis was the first to be voted off the show
Out of its 70 minutes on air, the actual footage of games - rather than re-runs or analysis - totalled just 30 minutes.

The show's BBC rival featured contestants from both Big Brother series, Survivor and Castaway, including Penny Ellis, whose early exit from Big Brother 2 (BB2) was repeated when she was the first person to be voted off.

Bateman did not hold back about his views of his fellow contestants, saying: "It's lucky I'm so bright and the others are so half-witted.

"Seriously though it has given me the opportunity to raise some money for a cause close to my own heart," he added.

Feisty BB2 contestant Narinder Kaur, known for her forthright views, was typically outspoken about Robinson.

"She didn't scare me the wench with the black jacket," she told the cameras after her fellow contestants booted her off the show.

The Premiership is under wayPremiership
Who won the battle for your remote control?
See also:

09 Aug 01 | TV and Radio
Saturday night TV fever
09 May 01 | TV and Radio
Stronger showing for Weakest Link
08 Aug 01 | TV and Radio
Robinson battles Lynam in schedule
03 Aug 01 | TV and Radio
ITV kicks off soccer coverage
06 Aug 01 | TV and Radio
Big Brother auction restarts
03 Aug 99 | UK
ITV signs Des Lynam
08 Aug 01 | TV and Radio
Weakest Link meets Reality TV
16 Apr 01 | TV and Radio
US hype for airbrushed Anne
05 Jul 01 | TV and Radio
Robinson dig tops TV complaints
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