AFTER more makeovers than Madonna, BBC One is finally giving up on the ailing Top of the Pops and handed it to BBC Two for an older audience.
Forty years after Jimmy Savile first presented the show — intended to run for just six weeks — with the Rolling Stones, Dusty Springfield and the Beatles from a converted church in Manchester, Britain’s most famous pop show has succumbed to competition from downloading and MTV.
In one final redesign, Top of the Pops will be transferred to a Sunday 7pm slot next April on BBC Two, where the programme will attempt to win back the absent millions with a broader range of rock, pop and archive classics. Instead of screaming teenagers, the new-look Top of the Pops hopes to attract “Clarkson man” — males aged 30 to 50 — who tune in to BBC Two on Sundays for Top Gear.
In its mid-Seventies heyday, Top of the Pops was required viewing for music fans, with a weekly audience of 16 million. Every aspiring rock star dreamt of winning a three-minute slot. Last Friday’s edition was watched by just three million.
Teenagers began to shun Top of the Pops in the 80s but a collapse in sales of singles accelerated its decline. Songs can reach No 1 with barely 30,000 sales then disappear from the hit-list a week later.
Illegal downloading and ringtone sales have eaten into the CD market, while music tastes have become so fragmented that a Friday evening prime-time slot can no longer satisfy a mainstream family audience.
The rise of MTV and a channel for every music genre hit Top of the Pops, and ITV’s Saturday morning CD:UK chart show became No 1 for hip presenters, the new Top Ten and star acts, stealing the young audience.
Moving Top of the Pops to Fridays, forcing it to compete with Coronation Street, was the final straw. A £1 million relaunch as an “all-live” show and new presenters last year failed to boost ratings.
Next April, It will present a new Top 40 of combined singles and downloads jointly with Radio 1, giving the show an immediacy it has lacked. The programme will incorporate the albums chart and clips from the Top of the Pops archive as well as current hits.
Mark Cooper, BBC Creative Head of Music Entertainment, said: “We want to reconnect the show with its heritage and provide something for music fans who don’t like what is in the chart that particular week. Sunday night feels right for an exciting live show.”
Mr Cooper said that Top of the Pops had not influenced the singles chart for some time and was on a “hiding to nothing” by being scheduled against Coronation Street.
The BBC did not consider dropping the show because of its strong global appeal. The show is seen in 112 countries and the format has been sold across Europe and to MBC, the Middle East broadcaster.
Roly Keating, BBC Two Controller, said: “We want to make it bigger and better so that it becomes the ultimate pop music show for music lovers of every generation.
“BBC Two has a strong heritage in pop music programmes, from Jools Holland to Glastonbury, so Top of the Pops will have a natural home on the channel.”
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