Today’s discovery+ launch spotlights David Attenborough’s 10 years of ratings dominance

David Attenborough is a promotional hook for Monday’s long-awaited launch of discovery+.

The 94-year old legend narrates A Perfect Planet, a blue chip series that stands out among the new streamer’s higher quality programs.

I am in awe of Attenborough’s lifetime contribution to documentary filmmaking. I earned a credit on one of his hit series. (See 2016 below.)

The discovery+ press campaign inspired me to take a right turn away from writing abput the streamer’s prospects and instead to focus on Attenborough’s dominating audience appeal.

BBC1 has been his UK broadcasting home.

In this post:

  • I list the top BBC1 wildlife programs from 2020 back to 2011.
  • Attenborough’s programs are highlighted with links.
  • The data is explained in notes below the 2020 list.

Here is my ratings data tribute to David Attenborough, with brief Takeaways.

BBC1 Nature & Wildlife Programs
2020

Programme Title ‘000 P4+ Share
1 Extinction: The Facts 4,374 22.4
2 Primates 4,211 16.8
3 Planet Earth: A Celebration 4,109 21.7
4 Blue Planet Revisited 3,942 23.2
5 Spy in the Wild 2,862 11.3
6 Blue Planet II 2,814 18.2
7 Planet Earth II 2,284 13.2
8 Attenborough and the Sea Dragon 2,269 16.6
9 Penguins – Spy in the Huddle 1,910 14.1
10 Animal Park 1,618 25.9
11 Seven Worlds, One Planet 1,449 11.9
12 Snow Animals 369 7.6
13 Iolo: The Last Wilderness of Wales 207 1.4
14 Stormborn (See my Case Study) 173 0.8
15 Grand Tours of the Scottish Islands 138 1.7

Notes on the Data

  • The ‘000 P4+’ column refers to viewers 4 years and older in thousands.
  • Share refers to the program’s share of television sets in use at that time.
  • The data refers to highest single episode in a series.
  • The categories come from BARB, and titles are sometimes incomplete.
  • Excuse any oversight if I incorrectly labeled a series.

Sea Dragon

2019

Programme Title ‘000 P4+ Share
1 Seven Worlds, One Planet 8,704 39.8
2 Blue Planet Live 5,745 24.3
3 Earth from Space 4,494 17.8
4 Snow Animals 3,455 17.6
5 Blue Planet II 3,392 17
6 Serengeti 2,951 16.8
7 Animal Park Summer Special 2,040 36.8
8 River Walks 1,901 10.6
9 The Farmers Country Showdown 1,628 16.4
10 Spy in the Snow 1,437 13.3
11 Life in the Snow 1,119 16.3
12 Dynasties 1,087 10.3

Hit Drama vs Hit Wildlife

  • The highest-rated BBC1 dramas in 2019 were Line of Duty (10.7 million) and Call the Midwife (8.7 mill).
  • ITV’s #1 drama was Manhunt (8.7 mill).
  • Seven Worlds‘ 8.7 million viewers is a measure of Attenborough’s untiring appeal, and of the UK broadcast audience’s intense interest in the quality documentary format.

2018

Programme Title ‘000 P4+ Share
1 Dynasties 8,060 31.3
2 Spy in the Snow 5,085 25.2
3 Big Cats 5,026 22
4 David Attenborough & the Giant Sea Dragon 4,860 18.9
5 Animals with Cameras 4,021 18.7
6 Earth’s Natural Wonders 3,676 14.7
7 Elephants on the Move 2,743 14.8
8 River Walks 2,690 13.7
9 Blue Planet II 2,681 16.7
10 Animals Behaving Badly 2,259 13
11 The Deer Stalker: Our Lives 1,865 12
12 Animal Park Summer Special 1,599 30.6
13 The Farmers Country Showdown 1,548 16.7
14 Attenborough and the Giant Elephant 1,157 11.4

2017

Programme Title ‘000 P4+ Share
1 Blue Planet II 14,011 45.8
2 Spy in the Wild 6,218 25.7
3 Wild Alaska Live 5,998 31.9
4 Attenborough and the Giant Elephant 5,378 20.3
5 Snow Bears 4,969 23.6
6 Galapagos 4,173 16.9
7 Judi Dench My Passion for Trees 3,075 13
8 The Farmers Country Showdown 2,757 15.6
9 Super Small Animals 1,825 9.2
10 Animal Park Easter Special 1,729 28

Blue Planet

2016

Programme Title ‘000 P4+ Share
1 Blue Planet II 13,143 43.3
2 Life in the Snow 4,163 18.4
3 Forces of Nature with Brian Cox 3,944 16.3
4 Koko: The Gorilla Who Talks to People 3,701 15.7
5 Nature’s Miracle Orphans 3,658 18.7
6 Great Barrier Reef with David Attenborough 3,653 13.8
7 Ingenious Animals 3,257 15.7
8 Nature’s Epic Journeys 2,749 11.6
9 Autumn: Earth’s Seasonal Secrets 2,441 16.3
10 Animal Babies 2,213 15.8

 

Attenborough goes under in the Alucia research vessel’s Triton submersible in “Great Barrier Reef”. I am credited as Development Executive for bringing together Attenborough and Bridgewater hedge fund giant Ray Dalio, then owner of the Alucia.

2015

Programme Title ‘000 P4+ Share
1 The Hunt 5,801 21
2 Big Blue Live 5,329 27.8
3 Earth’s Natural Wonders 4,882 22.1
4 Great Barrier Reef with David Attenborough 4,510 18.2
5 Pets: Wild at Heart 4,423 18
6 Animals in Love 4,245 20.6
7 Super Cute Animals 4,230 21.7
8 Snow Chick: A Penguin’s Tale 4,215 17.5
9 Shark 3,994 17.1
10 Nature’s Boldest Thieves 3,014 16.1

2014

Programme Title ‘000 P4+ Share
1 Dolphins: Spy in the Pod 5,292 20.3
2 Life Story 5,119 20.6
3 The 7 Wonders of the Commonwealth 4,376 19.1
4 Operation Wild 4,159 19.3
5 Hidden Kingdoms 3,801 15.3
6 Nature’s Miracle Orphans 3,789 21.2
7 Monkey Planet 3,635 14.9
8 24 Hours on Earth 3,358 14.8
9 Frozen Planet 2,479 12.4
10 Talk to the Animals 2,428 12.5

2013

Programme Title ‘000 P4+ Share
1 Africa 8,519 28.1
2 Penguins – Spy in the Huddle 5,835 20.7
3 Animal Odd Couples 5,588 21.5
4 Great Bear Stakeout 3,988 15.5
5 The Great British Year 3,935 16.8
6 Ultimate Swarms 3,123 13.4
7 Britain and the Sea 2,994 10.3
8 Britain’s Big Wildlife Revival 2,957 15.8
9 Super Giants Animals 2,620 10.9

2012

Programme Title ‘000 P4+ Share
1 Planet Earth Live 6,061 22.9
2 Earthflight 5,075 18.1
3 Snow Babies 4,752 20.1
4 The Great British Countryside 4,372 17.8
5 Supersized Earth 4,258 16.1
6 Richard Hammond’s Miracles of Nature 4,022 16.4
7 Land of the Lost Wolves 3,859 14.8
8 Polar Bear: Spy on the Ice 2,750 14.8
9 Miniature Britain 2,550 10.8
10 Frozen Planet 2,044 14.8

First Life

2011

Programme Title ‘000 P4+ Share
1 Frozen Planet 9,727 34.1
2 Ocean Giants 5,941 22.7
3 Earthflight 5,771 20.7
4 Planet Dinosaur 4,741 18.5
5 Nature’s Miracle Babies 4,043 19.8
6 Walk on the Wild Side 2,126 14.4
7 Polar Bear: Spy on the Ice 1,755 10.5
8 Animal 24:7 1,503 24.1
9 Halcyon River Diaries 1,262 7.4
10 David Attenborough’s First Life 590 10.5

More on discovery+

And coverage of A Perfect Planet

Read my earlier posts including: