Christmas TV viewing battle won by Mrs Brown's Boys

Sitcom featuring Brendan O'Carroll as eponymous character is surprise winner, while EastEnders suffers big ratings slump

BBC1 comedy Mrs Brown's Boys is the surprise winner of the Christmas Day TV ratings battle, with traditional favourite EastEnders suffering a 1.6 million viewer slump to record its lowest-rating festive edition in at least a decade.

Peter Capaldi's debut in Doctor Who and Danny Dyer's arrival in Albert Square were rival attractions, but Brendan O'Carroll's occasionally foul-mouthed Agnes and her brood proved the nation's Christmas favourite, attracting 9.4 million viewers and a 35.5% share of audience in its slot.

It is the first time the BBC has scheduled Mrs Brown's Boys on Christmas Day, with the decision providing the show with its highest-ever viewing figures, eclipsing the 9 million who tuned in on Boxing Day last year.

Doctor Who was the second most popular show, attracting an average of 8.3 million viewers, and achieved the biggest peak audience of the day, as 10.2 million bade farewell to Matt Smith and saw Capaldi's regeneration as the 12th Time Lord.

Viewing figures for most of the big shows were down compared with Christmas 2012, except for Doctor Who, which was significantly up on the 7.6 million who watched it last year.

The Queen's Christmas message had 7.8 million viewers across BBC1, ITV1 and Sky1 at 3pm, with 5.7 million watching on BBC1.

The Queen's viewing figures were down almost 1 million on the 8.7 million who watched last year.

Channel 4's alternative Christmas message, delivered by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, attracted an average of 700,000 viewers.

For the first time in over a decade, Coronation Street beat EastEnders in the battle of the soaps, taking 8.3 million viewers and a 30.7% share between 7.30pm and 8.30pm.

The ITV soap fared particularly well given that it was scheduled against Doctor Who, although it lost about half a million viewers compared with Christmas Day last year.

Danny Dyer's arrival as the new landlord of the Queen Vic failed to increase ratings for EastEnders, which took fourth place with a relatively poor 7.8 million viewers. EastEnders traditionally dominates Christmas Day – it has been the most popular show for the past four years – but this year 1.6 million fewer viewers tuned in than in 2012.

It was the lowest-rating festive edition of the soap for at least a decade, with the slump at least in part due to it being scheduled against ITV's Downton Abbey. EastEnders's biggest-ever Christmas Day audience was in 2002, when 16.2 million tuned in. The previous low was 9.2 million in 2006.

Strictly Come Dancing – following up its triumphant 11th series, which saw Abbey Clancy crowned champion – had an average of 7.3 million viewers and a 35% share for its Christmas special. This was good enough for fifth spot, although viewing was down about half a million on last year.

BBC1's Call the Midwife pipped Downton Abbey to sixth spot, attracting 7.1 million and a 30% share of audience, with viewing relatively stable year on year. Downton's head-to-head with EastEnders knocked about 300,000 viewers off ratings, although its 7 million audience put it in seventh place with a 27% share.

Call the Midwife and Downton Abbey are likely to fare better in the consolidated viewing figures, available in the new year, which include people who recorded the shows and watched them during the next seven days.

The BBC traditionally dominates Christmas Day viewing, although this year was slightly weaker with six of the top 10 programmes broadcast on BBC1. "I'm really proud of the quality and range of programmes we've shown across BBC television this Christmas," said Danny Cohen, the director of BBC television. "Much-loved shows like Doctor Who, Strictly, EastEnders and Mrs Brown have been hugely popular with viewers this year."

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Contributor

Mark Sweney

The GuardianTramp

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