One in three Christmas couch potatoes tuned in to the Mrs Brown’s Boys Christmas special, ratings figures show, making the BBC One programme the top-rated broadcast on a single channel on Christmas Day.
The public broadcaster dominated the Christmas ratings, with eight of the 10 most popular broadcasts, also including the Strictly Come Dancing Christmas special, Call the Midwife and EastEnders.
The six most popular programmes of the day were all broadcast on BBC One – a second day of dominance for the channel, which also broadcast the top four programmes on Christmas Eve.
About 6.8 million viewers – 32.6% of the television-watching public – tuned in to Mrs Brown’s Boys to be introduced to a new Rory following the departure of the actor Rory Cowan from the cast. The actor and creator Brendan O’Carroll had accounted for the character’s sudden change of appearance with a storyline involving cosmetic surgery.
Only a few hundred thousand fewer sat down to enjoy the Strictly Christmas special, featuring stars from throughout the programme’s history, which attracted 6.5 million viewers, for 31.4% of the total share of viewers.
The dramas Call the Midwife and EastEnders each drew 6.3 million, while the Queen’s Christmas message was watched by 5.9 million on BBC One and 1.9 million on ITV. Coronation Street and Emmerdale were the commercial broadcaster’s only two programmes to make the top 10, with 5.1 million and 3.7 million viewers respectively.
Bookmakers had tipped the extra helping of Strictly to be the most popular programme of the night, with both Coral and Ladbrokes recently offering odds of just 4-5 on the show having the highest audience figures, followed by 6-1 for Call the Midwife and 4-1 for Doctor Who.
But in the end, Jodie Whittaker’s debut as the first female Doctor only managed sixth place in the Christmas ratings top 10, drawing 5.7 million viewers for a 29.1% share.
The BBC called the success of its BBC One festive schedule a “triumph”. Charlotte Moore, the director of BBC content, said: “Millions of people chose BBC One on Christmas Day and came together to enjoy the top six most popular programmes from comedy, drama and entertainment, with Mrs Brown’s Boys returning to the top spot.”