Michael Parkinson, the BBC’s premier chat-show host, has been poached by ITV in an exclusive two-year deal commencing from this autumn, after the corporation failed to guarantee his preferred Saturday 10pm slot during recent contract renegotiations.
The move appears to have come as a surprise to many in the industry and is contrary to many reports last week that the veteran journalist and presenter had renewed his contract at the BBC for another two years, in a deal worth up to £1m.
But Parkinson’s favoured slot is to be taken over by the forthcoming run of Match of the Day, forcing him to consider the competition.
Parkinson will host a Saturday night show on ITV1 produced by Granada, and is also in discussions with Nigel Pickard, the network’s director of programmes regarding other projects.
Pickard said: “TV stars don’t come much bigger than Michael Parkinson and I am delighted that he is joining us. There’s no doubt that he is the best in his field and will be a fantastic addition to ITV’s Saturday nights.”
The defection comes after a slump in ratings for his BBC One show.
Although ITV is touting the move as “exclusive”, the BBC insisted the presenter will continue with the Sundaymorning programme Parkinson’s Sunday Supplement on BBC Radio 2.
BBC One controller Lorraine Heggessey said Parkinson was “the doyen of talk-show hosts and it’s been fantastic to have his show.
“With Match of the Day returning to Saturday nights we were unable to offer Michael the slot he wanted.
“Of course I’m sorry to see him go but BBC One was already preparing for the future with big names from the next generation who are moving the talk show on.”
Parkinson, who writes a sports column for The Daily Telegraph, began his television career on ITV as a current affairs producer for Granada TV.
By Wale Azeez