Downton Abbey may very well be the darling of the 2011 television season on both sides of the pond, but the critically-acclaimed, viewer mega-hit from ITV couldn’t quite muster the audience on Christmas Day, finishing in fourth place against the perennial Christmas ratings winners, Eastenders (BBC), Coronation Street (ITV) and Doctor Who (BBC). Some immediately pointed to the excessive number of commercials in the two-hour special, which was set over Christmas and New Year in 1919 and 1920 as the reason for the decline.
For longer than I can remember, telly on Christmas Day in the UK has been probably the most important day of the year in the minds of both broadcasters and viewers. It’s the day where traditional juggernauts film Christmas-themed episodes, ,Viewing figures were down across the board this year from 2010 totals. Tradition seemed to win out this year as both the BBC with an AbFab return and ITV with Downton Abbey fell short in overall numbers as compared to long-running soaps (Eastenders, Coronation Street) and The Queen’s annual Christmas message. While the numbers for DA were well below the November conclusion of series 2, ITV did record its best viewing figures since 2004 while the BBC secured 7 of the top 10 slots on Christmas Day.
FYI, viewers in the States, as usual, won’t have to worry about those pesky adverts as both series 2 AND the Christmas special will air uninterrupted and commercial-free beginning Sunday, January 8, 2012 on PBS. Cheers.
2011 Christmas Day viewing figures
EastEnders – BBC One – 9.9 million
Coronation Street – ITV – 9.0 million
Doctor Who – BBC One – 8.9 million
Downton Abbey – ITV – 8.1 million
Queen’s Speech – BBC One and ITV – 8.2 million (combined)
Strictly Come Dancing – BBC One – 7.5 million
Absolutely Fabulous – BBC One – 7.4 million
The Gruffalo’s Child – BBC One – 6.5 million
Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow – BBC One – 6.4 million
Emmerdale – ITV – 6.2 million
Source: BARB overnight figures, based on 15-minute peaks and average viewers over entire shows