Stories about the current favourites to win Strictly Come Dancing are an easy way for the press to generate content, a free way for the BBC to get a bit of publicity, and it helps drum up some custom for the bookies. It’s been a cosy little three-way for years, but some tensions are developing in the relationship.
Because the BBC films the Saturday and Sunday shows on the same day, but the Sunday show is held back for broadcast, the elimination decision is actually made and filmed a long while before it’s broadcast. The producers have to beg the studio audience not to reveal the result early on social media.
The press, by and large, seem happy to play along with this embargo. The problem arises, however, when the bookies find out the result.
The bookies are in a bind as they can’t very well take punters’ money on bets for a contestant they know has been eliminated, so they have to suspend that contestant from the market as soon as they know the result. What that means though is that, for all of Sunday, the Strictly betting markets provide an obvious spoiler (as the eliminated contestant is missing from the book).
How do you fix a problem like that? One way would be to film the show across two days, to make sure there isn’t a 24 hour lag.
A cheaper option would be to fire off a bunch of legal threats at the bookmakers and threaten them with breach of confidence – despite there being no formal contract in place between the two.
Which is what the Beeb has done.