'The Voice' And 'Britain's Got Talent' Go Head-To-Head In New Ratings Battle

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BGT VOICE
The battle for viewers rages on | ITV/BBC

The Voice is set for a 15-minute head-to-head clash with the finale of rival Britain's Got Talent as tensions between ITV and BBC1 escalated.

The latest overlap caused friction throughout today as schedulers for the broadcasters were involved in a bout of brinkmanship which at one stage threatened a 75-minute overlap.

But after further last-minute negotiations as the stations revealed their programme line-ups this afternoon, ITV agreed to delay the climax of the latest series of BGT , to be broadcast on Saturday May 12.

The clashes had led to heightened tensions between programme bosses of the channels over the past few weeks.

ITV recently moved the audition heats of BGT to a later Saturday night slot after it was repeatedly beaten in the ratings. Last week it finally edged ahead of the BBC1 show by a small margin, thanks to its later time.

In one draft schedule, ITV had placed the 150-minute final at 6.30pm, which would have led to the shows screening simultaneously for an hour and a quarter. The BBC had settled on 6.10pm, which it said was the earliest The Voice could run because of live sports and a movie, Madagascar, which were lined up for that afternoon.

The machinations have infuriated both sides, with BBC bosses understood to be angered by ITV's efforts to screen the show at 6.30pm, particularly after ITV chiefs blew their tops when The Voice overran by just three minutes last month, causing the two show to overlap.

The BBC feels ITV has still been provocative with its scheduling, with a 7.30pm start still an hour and 10 minutes earlier than this Saturday's edition of the programme.

A BBC insider said: "This isn't about winning the ratings battle for us because we know the final will be popular. It's just that this is a completely avoidable situation. They could have played it later.

"ITV's claims about 'dirty tricks' with the three-minute overrun now look rather disingenuous."

An ITV source said: "We are screening the final in a similar slot to previous years, and we have to accommodate rather a long family show."

ITV has previously blamed the BBC for the clashes, saying that the broadcaster had scheduled The Voice at a time of year when BGT was already a fixture in the calendar.

Today ITV asked the BBC to move its show to 6pm to minimise the clash even further, but BBC1 bosses said they were unable to go earlier than 6.10pm because of the other programming.

The final rounds off a week of live heats of Britain's Got Talent.

The BBC has been further infuriated by ITV placing an edition of popular soap Emmerdale directly up against The Voice's results show on Sunday May 13.

But ITV explained that it is unable to show its normal Thursday double bill of Emmerdale to allow space for the heat, and the next comparable spot was on the Sunday.