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Mastermind returning to its roots but BBC Studios loses production tender

John Humphrys will still present the programme, which will air on the BBC.


John Humphrys (Yui Mok/PA)

John Humphrys (Yui Mok/PA)

John Humphrys (Yui Mok/PA)

BBC Studios has lost the rights to produce long-running quiz show Mastermind, which will return to the famous interrogation style of its roots.

The BBC2 show will be made by independent production companies instead of BBC Studios following a competitive tender process.

John Humphrys, who has announced he will be leaving the Today programme, will continue to present the highbrow, popular quiz show.

A BBC source told the Press Association: “We will be looking to recreate the sense of tension and interrogation style that the show is famous for.

“While the structure of the quiz will remain the same, audiences will notice a different look and feel.”

Magnus Magnusson hosted the show from 1972 on BBC One and was billed as the show’s “Interrogator”.


The late Mastermind quiz show host Magnus Magnusson (PA)

The late Mastermind quiz show host Magnus Magnusson (PA)

The late Mastermind quiz show host Magnus Magnusson (PA)

Mastermind’s creator, Bill Wright, a former RAF gunner, drew on his wartime experience as a Prisoner of War in Germany to create the original interrogation style of the show.

The series was initially thought to be too highbrow and aired in a late-night slot but it went on to notch up a huge audience in peak hours.

It was dropped by the BBC in 1997 but returned, on BBC Two, in 2003 with Humphrys as a new question master.

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The broadcaster said in a statement: “The BBC is today announcing that a joint bid from independent producers Hat Trick and Hindsight has won the competitive tender to produce Mastermind and Celebrity Mastermind.”

The announcement comes after the BBC announced that TV coverage of BBC Proms would be produced by an independent production company for the first time.

The coverage of the concerts in 2019 and 2020 will be produced by Livewire Pictures, rather than BBC Studios, although it will still be televised by the broadcaster.

Programmes are being put out to competitive tender as part of the latest Charter agreement.

The rights to produce Songs of Praise was previously won by outside production companies.

But BBC Studios won the tender to continue producing A Question Of Sport and long-running TV series Holby City.

The Mastermind contract runs for two years from July.

Mastermind was previously produced from Salford and will now move to Northern Ireland.

Kate Phillips, controller of entertainment commissioning, said: “We assessed the bids against four criteria and the bid from Hindsight and Hat Trick was the strongest. We liked their idea of Mastermind returning to its roots, in a dramatic and pressurised setting.

“We’re also delighted that this decision means another BBC show will be made in Northern Ireland.”

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