Midwives give way to Downton in Christmas TV battle: Shows will no longer clash after BBC moves festive special start time

Midwives give way to Downton in Christmas TV battle: Shows will no longer clash after BBC moves festive special start time

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UPDATED:

01:36 GMT, 5 December 2012

It may be the season of goodwill, but when it comes to Christmas TV schedules it seems the broadcasters are determined to fight for the best slot.

The BBC has been forced to move Call the Midwife festive special back to 7.30pm in a bid to avoid a clash with Downton Abbey.

ITV1 had originally scheduled its two hour Christmas special for 9pm, while it was thought the BBC wanted to run its 75 minute show at 8pm.

After hours of negotiations, the BBC moved Call the Midwife, pictured, to 7.45pm and then eventually 7.30pm, after ITV said it wanted Downton Abbey to begin at 8.45pm instead

After hours of negotiations, the BBC moved Call the Midwife, pictured, to 7.45pm and then eventually 7.30pm, after ITV said it wanted Downton Abbey to begin at 8.45pm instead

The final schedule sees Coronation Street and Call the Midwife go head to head at 7.30pm, and EastEnders will air at the same time as Downton Abbey, pictured

The final schedule sees Coronation Street and Call the Midwife go head to head at 7.30pm, and EastEnders will air at the same time as Downton Abbey, pictured

Yesterday was the final day to agree the seasonal schedules and both channels were caught in wrangling to secure the best time.

After exchanging five rounds of timetables and hours of negotiations, the BBC moved Call the Midwife to 7.45pm and then eventually 7.30pm, after ITV said it wanted Downton Abbey to begin at 8.45pm instead.

Downton Abbey will be in summer holiday mode for its Christmas special. There is a suggestion of new romance for Lady Edith and even cook Mrs Patmore, and more arguments for Matthew and Mary, pictured

Downton Abbey will be in summer holiday mode for its Christmas special. There is a suggestion of new romance for Lady Edith and even cook Mrs Patmore, and more arguments for Matthew and Mary, pictured

A senior BBC source said: ‘We wanted
to avoid a clash if possible and give viewers a chance to watch both on
the day if they wanted to.’

The
final schedule sees Coronation Street and Call the Midwife go head to
head at 7.30pm, and EastEnders will air at the same time as Downton
Abbey.

Both period dramas have pulled in some of the highest ratings of the year.

EastEnders and Coronation Street, which usually broadcast specials on Christmas Day, have suffered dwindling audiences in the past 12 months.

Instead, viewers have fallen for the charm of Call the Midwife, which features Vanessa Redgrave, Miranda Hart, and Jenny Agutter, and was a surprise success for the BBC when the first series aired in January.

Downton Abbey, which has just completed its third series, remains a firm favourite with fans both here and in the US.

Call the Midwife is based on the late Jennifer Worth’s memoirs about midwifery in London’s East End in the 1950s, and pulled in more than 8.5million viewers a week.

In the festive special, viewers will see a heart-wrenching story tackling teen pregnancy, the horrors of the workhouse, and child mortality.

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Call the Midwife, based on the late Jennifer Worths memoirs about midwifery in London's East End in the 1950s, pulled in more than 8.5million viewers a week