11:21 09 September 2011
BBC thriller series Spooks is set to take on ITV's Downton Abbey in the battle for viewers on Sunday nights.
The spy serial will air its tenth and final series on an all new night, previously only ever being broadcast on a weeknight.
The BBC defended the scheduling saying in a statement:
"This is the last ever series of Spooks and we wanted to celebrate this and make it a special event for viewers in the Sunday 9pm slot.
"It is not unusual for drama to go up against drama here, for example, David Tennant's Single Father did last year, and ITV's Vera was up against BBC1's Exile earlier this year."
Spooks' final run of six episodes will focus on Section Chief Harry Pearce (Peter Firth) and a long-held guilty secret which threatens his relationship with love Ruth Evershed (Nicola Walker).
Downton Abbey was ITV's surprise hit of 2010 and stars Dame Maggie Smith and Hugh Bonneville as members of a noble family trying to find a suitable heir for their grand country estate. The new series will take place during World War I.
The last series of Spooks attracted an average audience of 6.3million viewers, whereas Downton Abbey topped 9.7million. Both shows begin their runs on Sunday 18 September at 9pm.
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