Christine Bleakley’s multi-million pound move to ITV represents “make or break time” for Northern Ireland’s favourite TV presenter, a PR guru to the stars has claimed.
PR supremo Max Clifford said the Co Down woman’s cross-channel hop would put her in the “premier league” of TV presenters while re-uniting her with one-time One Show co-presenter Adrian Chiles on the GMTV sofa.
But with the BBC having promised to make Christine Bleakley one of its biggest stars, has the Newtownards woman just taken the biggest risk of her career?
Mr Clifford said: “It’s a gamble either way. She and Adrian Chiles work very well as a team and obviously ITV has promised her other programmes as well. It’s establishing her in the premier league and she has to do it.
“ITV will be a new challenge for her as she will get more opportunities there. In the BBC, people tend to get pigeon-holed. I don’t think it’s a bad move for her. The next two to three years could be very successful for her. It really is make or break time.”
Past defections have not always proven successful. Richard Madeley and Judy Finnigan’s careers nosedived when they quit ITV’s hugely popular This Morning for a new-look Channel 4 chat show.
Then there’s the added threat of legal proceedings hanging over the 31-year-old, brought by her former agent John Noel Management. She is understood to still be under notice from her ex-agent, who may claim he is entitled to a share of her ITV money and could take legal action.
Alan Yentob, the BBC creative director, weighed into the saga yesterday, defending the corporation's decision to withdraw its offer. He said the BBC did not
wish to become “a patsy” as the presenter negotiated with ITV.
But those who know Bleakley say she is a canny career woman who has made the right decision to take up ITV’s reported £6m deal over three years.
And they denied Bleakley’s move would backfire.
BBC Radio Ulster and Five Live presenter Stephen Nolan, who teamed up with Bleakley to present Children in Need, said: “I've worked with Christine on live television and she brings out the very best not just in herself, but her co anchor.
“When I worked with her for hours in a live studio for Children in Need, it was obvious to me that I was dealing with a network professional at the very top of her game.”
And Radio Ulster presenter Ralph McLean, who also worked closely with Bleakley, said he believed she was a star in her own right. “I know she’ll be delighted to be back with Adrian and they do work well together, but I think she’ll be huge, regardless of him,” he said.
“I can see her going on to present big prime-time shows like The X Factor. She was always going to be a star.”
Maureen Coleman: TV pairing the BBC was foolish to let go
From September television’s golden girl Christine Bleakley will be back on the sofa with her on-screen better half Adrian Chiles.
It’s a pairing that works well. His grumpiness is offset by her gregariousness, his cynicism by her love of life. And having witnessed their friendship at first hand, I can say that their mutual affection and respect is genuine.
Bleakley may have been groomed by the Beeb, but she made no secret of the fact that she wanted to work with her former One Show co-host again.
And the corporation’s decision at the weekend to withdraw their offer helped make her mind up.
Whether they got wind of her defection first is unknown, but it certainly sealed the ITV deal for her.
Then, of course, there’s the small matter of £6m in a three-year deal. That’s some sweetener.
The BBC had a winning formula in Bleakley and Chiles. They made a big mistake when they let him go. With Bleakley off now as well, it will be interesting to see how successful the new One Show pairing will be.