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Last Updated: Monday, 29 November, 2004, 15:56 GMT
How TOTP lost its top spot
By Ian Youngs
BBC News entertainment reporter

Long-running music TV show Top of the Pops is being moved to a Sunday slot on BBC Two and will feature classic hits as well as current chart stars.

When Top of the Pops was in its heyday in the 1970s, it attracted 15 million viewers a week as families would gather around the television to watch the run-down of the hit parade, we are told.

Those memories may be a little rose-tinted, but the move to BBC Two on Sundays marks an admission that the show is no longer the must-see TV it once was for music fans.

Eminem at Tower Bridge for Top of the Pops
Producers have tried to make the show must-see TV
It now rarely gets three million viewers a week - half the audience it was getting less than 10 years ago.

And a revamp it was given by new supremo Andi Peters a year and a day ago has failed to improve its fortunes.

Peters wanted to bring a bit of the "must see" factor back by making it an exciting event again.

He has done that through taking the show out of the office for spectacular performances such as the "al fresco" episode in Gateshead in July and Eminem at London's Tower Bridge on Friday.

And he has further tried to take it away from being a plain rundown of the chart by bringing in big-name stars giving exclusive performances of singles before they are released.

Slade on Top of the Pops
The 1970s were considered the show's heyday
Short of bringing back Pan's People, he has done everything he could and it has not worked.

There are a wide range of reasons - some within the BBC's control but most relating to rapid changes in the music and TV markets.

As a country, the UK still loves its music - more albums were sold in the 12 months to September than any previous year.

But Top of the Pops is based on the singles chart and single sales have been plummeting. They have gone from 80 million a year in 1999 to 36 million in 2003 and falling.

Recent years have also seen a more marked schism between the teen pop market and the more mature album-buying mainstream.

So the best-selling singles of the year so far include tracks by Eamon, DJ Casper and Pop Idol winner Michelle, none of whom make much of a dent in the album chart.

And the list of top-selling albums of 2004 to date is dominated by acts like Katie Melua, Scissor Sisters and Norah Jones - none of whom have reached higher than 10 in the singles chart.

Tim Kash
Tim Kash has left as host of Top of the Pops
Only a few acts, like Usher and Anastacia, straddle both worlds.

All that means mums and dads, who may have sat down with their kids to watch Top of the Pops in past years, have little desire to do so now.

Another major factor in Top of the Pops' struggle has been the abundance of channels dedicated to music that simply were not there 10 years ago.

Sky Digital lists 65 music channels and with more than half the country now receiving digital TV, it is easy to switch on to the latest hits at any time.

But one thing the BBC did have control over have been the on-screen talent and time-slot.

Ratings battle

When the show relaunched in 2003, MTV's Tim Kash was heralded as the new face of TOTP. But he could not endear himself to the nation and has quietly disappeared, replaced by the pairing of Fearne Cotton and Reggie Yates.

And the ratings decline was already under way when the BBC decided to move Top of the Pops from its traditional Thursday home to Fridays in 1996.

But it was always going to have trouble attracting viewers from Coronation Street, its rival in the Friday evening timeslot, which gets 10-12 million viewers a week to beat it hands down.

With the shift to Sunday dinner time and the addition of archive performances, producers hope they can once again attract the whole family as they sit down to watch TV.

Top of the Pops leaves BBC One
29 Nov 04 |  Entertainment
Top of the Pops outlines revamp
21 Oct 03 |  Entertainment
Peters takes on Top of the Pops
27 Jul 03 |  Entertainment
BBC's revamped Pops is launched
28 Nov 03 |  Entertainment



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