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Monday, 12 November, 2001, 17:55 GMT
Blind Date makes strong return
Cilla Black: football replaced her show, but not for long
ITV reinstated the long-running Blind Date on Saturday
ITV's dating show Blind Date enjoyed a successful return to the television schedules on Saturday, unofficial overnight figures indicate.

Blind Date was reportedly watched at 1900 GMT by seven million viewers - 32% of the audience.

The figure is almost three million more than watched Des Lynam present the Premiership, the football highlights programme that went out in the coveted slot for the last time on 3 November.

Blind Date, presented by Cilla Black, helped ITV to celebrate its first Saturday peak-time ratings victory over BBC One since it launched the Premiership, in August.

Blind Date presenter Cilla Black
ITV mainstay: Cilla Black lures female viewers

The Premiership took a week's break for internationals, and is due to return on 17 November.

Blind Date was watched by around a million fewer people than tuned in to its debut programme in the series last November.

Black had commented that audiences might take some time to return to their former levels.

Vindicated

The latest figures seem to vindicate ITV's moving the football programme to the 11.30pm slot and reinstating the long-running dating show at 7pm.

The final decision to move the Premiership came after an edition featuring three of the top league's most popular teams, Arsenal, Manchester United and Liverpool, on 16 October attracted only 4.6m viewers.

Punning on the name of Premiership presenter Des Lynam, newspapers depicted the move as a "Desaster" - but it was forced on ITV by economic circumstances.

The network is facing an advertising slump, with November's revenue expected to be 20% down on last year and December's threatening to be worse still.

Smooth operator: but Des Lynam's show was moved
Premiership ratings were branded a "Desaster"

The Premiership's launch, in August, was billed as an attempt to break the mould of Saturday- night viewing.

ITV's traditional early-evening Saturday schedule, dominated for years by Blind Date, attracted a predominantly female audience - but the channel was unable to hold on to that audience after it changed its offering at 1900.

The proportion of men in the early evening audience rose as a result of the football, but not enough to compensate for the loss of female viewers.

See also:

28 Oct 01 | Newsmakers
The Power of Cilla
03 Aug 01 | Entertainment
Cilla Black's son to wed
02 Aug 99 | Entertainment
Cilla back at Blind Date
07 Apr 00 | Entertainment
Cilla's tribute to Lennon
02 Nov 99 | Entertainment
Cilla's farewell to husband Bobby
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