ITV is scheduling Downton Abbey against EastEnders this Christmas Day. This is an unprecedented move. Traditionally, ITV loses the Christmas ratings battle, and doesn’t care very much because (based on the traditional high street model), all the important advertising takes place in the run up to Christmas.
Thanks to new media, however, people continue shopping – even on Christmas Day. Those with new iPods/iPhones/iPads rush to fill them with apps, and people also rush to spend Amazon vouchers, iTunes vouchers, and so on.
Add to this the fact that many of the sales start on Boxing Day, and ITV’s need for a Christmas Day winner becomes clear:
The commercial broadcaster hopes to end the BBC’s dominance of Christmas viewing with a two-hour special of the period drama. To promote the episode, it has released a series of teasing still photographs that hint at the narrative shocks that lay in store.
A spokesman for ITV promised high drama in the Christmas special, during which viewers will learn the fate of Bates, the valet, who is on trial for the murder of his estranged wife.