BBC1 shows dominate 2016 TV ratings

Baking, dancing and Sir David Attenborough receive highest audience figures, with Sherlock the only drama in year’s top 40

The Great British Bake Off and Strictly Come Dancing have helped the BBC dominate 2016’s TV ratings, with 31 of the top 40 programmes so far this year showing on BBC1.

Bake Off episodes occupied all but one of the top 11 slots once catchup viewing was included, with the final attracting an audience of almost 16 million, making it the most watched programme of the year.

The second episode of Planet Earth II was the only other programme to make it into the top 10, ranking at number eight with more than 13.1 million viewers, and a further four episodes were in the top 40. The documentary, narrated by Sir David Attenborough, is the most watched natural history programme for at least 15 years. Strictly, with the help of Ed Balls’ eye-catching appearances, appeared in the top 40 13 times, more than any other programme.

The figures from ratings agency Barb will buoy the BBC at the end of a year in which its role as a mass market broadcaster was questioned. However, the reliance on Bake Off for its biggest audiences will create concern now that it has it lost the series to Channel 4, which paid a reported £75m for a three-year deal with producers Love Productions.

Charlotte Moore, the BBC’s director of content, said: “I’m proud that BBC1 continues to unite us as a nation with shows that feel modern, fresh and in touch with our audience, entertaining millions every week of the year.”

However, ITV provided different figures showing that audiences for its Euro 2016 coverage were repeatedly among the largest of the year if measured from kick-off to final whistle, rather than including pre- and post-match coverage. Under ITV’s measurement, it would have had at least a further three entries in the top 40, including England’s defeat by Iceland, which would have been the second most watched programme of the year with more than 15 million viewers.

Outside the Euros, the biggest ITV audiences tuned in for I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here and Britain’s Got Talent. The X Factor failed to make the top 40 for the second year running, having suffered its worst launch ratings in a decade and being comprehensively beaten by Strictly.

The commercial broadcaster recently confirmed a three-year deal with TV and music mogul Simon Cowell to keep showing Britain’s Got Talent and The X Factor, and has signed a “golden handcuffs” deal with I’m a Celebrity and Britain’s Got Talent presenters Ant and Dec reportedly worth £30m until 2019.

Despite its lack of top-ranking shows, ITV said that its share of total viewing had risen by 3% over the year, compared with 0.5% for BBC1 and 2% for BBC2. It pointed to the success of Coronation Street, which is the UK’s most watched soap, and the large audiences pulled in by new dramas including Victoria and the revival of Cold Feet.

The only drama to feature in Barb’s top 40 was BBC1’s Sherlock special on New Year’s Day, with 11.6 million viewers, making it the 24th most popular show of the year to date. A new three-part series begins on 1 January.

The BBC will hope to continue its success at Christmas, with special editions of Strictly and Bake Off and a new Agatha Christie adaptation from the writer of last year’s And Then There Were None.

Last Christmas, the BBC had the 10 most watched shows on Boxing Day, but was beaten to the top slot on Christmas Day by the final episode of Downton Abbey on ITV1. Though the commercial broadcaster does not have another long-running drama to rely on this year, soaps Coronation Street and Emmerdale regularly pull in big festive audiences, as does the BBC’s EastEnders.


Jasper Jackson and agencies

The GuardianTramp

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