Christmas Day TV ratings were lowest on record with top show Call The Midwife attracting just 8m viewers – less than half the number who tuned in to Gavin and Stacey last year
- Most-watched programme this Christmas was Call the Midwife, 8m viewers
- Top ratings were less than half of 17.1m who watched Gavin and Stacey last year
- Total number of TV viewers at lowest level on record since they began in 1981
Christmas television viewing figures fell to the lowest level on record in 2020, with the number of people switching on the box comparable to 1981.
The most-watched programme on Christmas Day 2020 was Call the Midwife on BBC One, with a TV audience of 8million.
Call the Midwife previously held the record for the lowest ratings for a most-watched Christmas Day show in 2018 – when it attracted 8.7million viewers, over half a million more than this year.
And it was a sharp drop of more than half of the 17.1million who tuned in the special episode of Gavin and Stacey on BBC One Christmas Day last year, the most watched Christmas broadcast of 2019.
The most-watched programme on December 25 last month was Call the Midwife on BBC One (pictured), with a TV audience of 8million
The TV ratings for Christmas Day 2020 – which also included 6.7million for BBC One’s Strictly Come Dancing and 6.5million for ITV’s Coronation Street – reflect a long-term decline in audiences.
This is driven partly by a change in viewing habits, as more people access a range of programmes on demand through platforms such as the BBC iPlayer or ITV Hub, and via streaming services such as Netflix.
The TV audience for the most-watched show on Christmas Day 2020 was 36 per cent below the equivalent programme in 2010 (EastEnders), down 45 per cent compared with 2000 (Coronation Street) and down 55 per cent compared with 1990 (Only Fools and Horses).
This year’s top top rated show saw less than half of the 17.1m who watched Gavin and Stacey last year
Mrs Brown’s Boys Christmas special, which aired on Christmas Day at 10pm, was watched by 3.8million viewers, a significant drop from the 4.6million who tuned in last year
Top ten Christmas TV audiences of 2020
The biggest TV audiences of Christmas week (Dec 21-27 2020):
1. Call The Midwife (Christmas Day, BBC One): 8.0million
2. The Queen (Christmas Day, BBC One): 7.2million
3. Black Narcissus (December 27, BBC One): 7.0million
4. The Repair Shop (Boxing Day, BBC One): 7.0million
5. Coronation Street (December 21, ITV): 6.7million
6. BBC Weekend News (6.35pm December 27, BBC One): 6.7million
7. Strictly Come Dancing (Christmas Day, BBC One): 6.7million
8. Coronation Street (Christmas Eve, ITV): 6.5million
9. Coronation Street (Christmas Day, ITV): 6.5million
10. BBC News at Six (December 21, BBC One): 6.5million
Figures according to Barb. All figures include +1 and HD channels where appropriate.
Full ratings for Christmas Day 2020 have been published by Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board (Barb), and include people who recorded a broadcast and watched up to seven days later.
They are treated as the official ratings for a TV programme. Comparable figures for TV audiences date back to 1981 when records began.
They show that Christmas Day audiences remained broadly steady through the 1980s and much of the 1990s, before starting a downward trend around the turn of the century.
Only Fools and Horses has been the most-watched TV programme on December 25 a total of eight times, from 1990-1993, in 1996, and then from 2001-03.
Other Christmas Day chart-toppers have included the BBC sitcoms Just Good Friends (1986), Bread (1988) and The Vicar of Dibley (2006), ITV drama Downton Abbey (2011 and 2015), and the films Raiders of the Lost Ark (ITV in 1984) and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (BBC1 in 1987).
But the biggest ever TV audience for a single Christmas Day broadcast remains the 21.8million who saw the film ‘Crocodile’ Dundee on BBC1 in 1989.
Separate figures published by broadcasters show the growing strength of online platforms in 2020.
The BBC enjoyed a record five billion requests on iPlayer last year, with the most popular series, Normal People, requested nearly 63million times.
The ITV Hub saw the most recent series of Love Island get over 130million requests, while I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here had over 25million requests.
Mrs Brown’s Boys Christmas special, which aired on Christmas Day at 10pm, was watched by 3.8million viewers, a significant drop from the 11million who watched in 2013 and the 4.6million who tuned in last year.
Although the show has long been a TV favourite, it was beaten this year by the likes of Call The Midwife and the Strictly Christmas special.
Only Fools and Horses has been the most-watched TV programme on December 25 a total of eight times
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