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Channel loyalty's a turn-off as viewers go for big events.

Byline: By Paul Rowland Western Mail

A glut of television channels means we are now in the era of 'event television' rather than loyalty to a particular series. The sheer choice available through digital and satellite services mean the chances of having watched the same programme as the next person on any given evening are increasingly slim. And the trend is forcing networks to put all their efforts into staging television events, guaranteed to pull in audiences. Whether it's the start of a hyped new series, a major sporting event, a one-off drama, a special episode of a perennial favourite or the launch of a reality show, broadcasters are having to pull out all the stops to attract viewers from the multitude of channels available through digital services.

The success of last night's This Life +10 (pictured right), a reunion of the hugely successful 1990s drama, is a case in point, with fans of the original show reuniting to catch up on the progress of Miles, Egg, Milly, Anna and Warren.

The BBC Wales production, aired last night as a 90-minute feature length special on BBC 2, saw the original cast reconvene at the funeral of their friend Ferdy, and provided an update on the fortunes of the cast since they were last seen on our screens in 1997.

And tonight will see another televisual event as a collection of well-known misfits assemble in a house in Elstree for the start of the latest Celebrity Big Brother.

In many ways, the growth of event television started in 2000 with the original Big Brother. By pulling in viewers for the opening night, where contestants were unveiled, and then for weekly evictions, the format guaranteed not just one, but a series of must-see occasions that would be discussed in offices around the country the next day.

The popularity of the reality format has given rise to numerous variations, with finals of I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here, The X Factor and Strictly Come Dancing all proving to be major draws. Launches of new series are increasingly the subject of greater hype than every before. The comeback of Doctor Who in 2005 after a hiatus of 16 years attracted an audience of 10.5 million, while the recent Christmas Day special drew in 8.7 million. But it was beaten by another major event - a two-part special marking the end of long-running sitcom The Vicar of Dibley, in which Dawn French's character finally got married. More than 12 million viewers watched Dawn French tie the knot. An average audience of 12.3 million tuned in to see French's unlucky-in-love vicar Geraldine Granger wed handsome newcomer Harry Kennedy, according to unofficial figures. It beat the Christmas Day episode, which pulled in 11.4 million.
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jan 3, 2007
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