This Morning’s Holly Willoughby and Bradley Walsh, host of The Chase, have been signed up to front a BBC Christmas special. The appointments follow a failed attempt to poach Good Morning Britain’s Piers Morgan for a revived version of The Weakest Link and comes after Take Me Out’s Paddy McGuinness was snapped up for Top Gear. Other stars to be poached include former Corrie favourite Catherine Tyldesley, who recently starred in comedy Scarborough, and Britain’s Got Talent judge Alesha Dixon, hired as host of The Greatest Dancer alongside Dancing On Ice’s Ashley Banjo.
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ITV chiefs believe their stars are being targeted because of the BBC’s lack of homegrown talent with broad, down-to-earth appeal, particularly with young viewers and northern audiences.
“Most of their TV stars are southern and perhaps a bit posh – a bit Radio 4,” one source said.
“They are obsessed with youth and ITV does much better than them on 16 to 34-year-old viewers.
“Plus they have an issue in the north where their viewing is bad and they worry about a licence fee rebellion.” Take Off with Bradley and Holly will be an hour-long festive special in which audience members get the chance to win a trip to Lapland.
Made by Holly’s producer husband Dan Baldwin, it promises to be packed with surprises, games and with a “spectacular finale”.
BBC bosses are said to have paid a six-figure sum to lure the pair.
The source said. “It’s cost the BBC a fortune in fees and the production costs on the show itself are around £1million. Is this licence fee value? Surely not.”
Last night the BBC declined to comment.