The shift in schedules means that on BBC, David Jason’s new show The Royal Bodyguard will now air on Boxing Day, rather than in a 9:30pm slot on Christmas Day.
TV insiders told the Daily Mirror that the changes to the scheduling for Christmas Day have come about because the BBC is “running scared” that its traditional dominance of the big day’s ratings is under threat this year.
However, it’s expected that many EastEnders fans are going to be annoyed that they must wait until 9pm to see this year’s Christmas episode…
But BBC bosses hope that viewers will choose to record Downton Abbey’s two-hour spectacular so as to watch ‘Enders as it airs, and then the return of Absolutely Fabulous, which airs right after the festive trip to Walford.
The Christmas Day episode of Coronation Street is to air right before Downton, starting at 8pm, while on the BBC, the Doctor Who yuletide special will air at 7pm.
A TV source told the paper, “This year ITV bosses knew they had Downton up their sleeve as a secret weapon and they are pulling out all the stops with a two-hour show.
“The BBC have been chopping and changing right up until the deadline.
“And although David Jason used to be a ratings banker for them in Only Fools and Horses, he has been moved to Boxing Day to protect his new show from clashing with the established brand of Downton.
“It looks like being the biggest Christmas Day ratings battle for decades.
“The BBC were running scared and changed their whole schedule just hours before the deadline.”
Last year on Christmas Day, the BBC had eight of the top ten shows, with EastEnders drawing the biggest audience of them all, with around 11.4 million of us tuning in.
So which will win your watch-as-it-airs battle? Downton or EastEnders?