A friend shared a recent report on the average ratings of UK factual and documentary programs broadcast in 2011.
Here are the Top 1-35, with our Takeaways below.
- The Takeaways are updated from our August post on the top programs for 1H’11.
- Also, see our previous post for #36-70 for FY’11.
|1||The Apprentice: The Final||BBC 1||17.8||10239||Elimination|
|2||Big Fat Gypsy Weddings||CH4||15.8||9050||Obs Doc Series|
|3||Frozen Planet||BBC1||13.7||8665||Nat History|
|4||Big Fat Gypsy Christmas||CH4||12.6||7246||Obs Doc Series|
|5||Moving On: The Walton Sextuplets||ITV1||11.3||6499||Obs Doc Series|
|6||Susan Boyle … Superstar||ITV1||11.3||6336||Bio|
|7||Strangeways||ITV1||10.9||6267||Prison Doc Series|
|9||9/11 Day That Changed …||ITV1||10.5||6043||History / Curr Affs|
|11||Top Gear: India||BBC2||10.0||5761||Lifestyle / Travel|
|12||Billy Connolly’s Route 66||ITV1||9.8||5652||Travel|
|13||The Duke At 90||BBC 1||9.5||5462||Bio|
|14||Richard Hammond’s Journey to the Centre||BBC 1||9.4||5389||Science|
|15||Ocean Giants||BBC1||9.3||5341||Nat History|
|16||My Big Fat Royal Gypsy Wedding||CH4||9.3||5321||Obs Doc Series|
|17||Human Planet||BBC 1||9.2||5284||Science|
|18||Super Tiny Animals||ITV1||9.1||5247||Nat History|
|19||Prince Philip At 90||ITV1||8.9||5110||Bio|
|20||Long Lost Family||ITV1||8.8||5027||Doc Series|
|21||Downton Abbey: Behind the Drama||ITV1||8.6||4983||Arts / Pop Culture|
|22||Egyps Lost Cities||BBC 1||8.6||4917||History|
|23||Harry’s Arctic Heroes||BBC1||8.3||4752||Doc (2)|
|25||Terry Wogan’s Ireland||BBC 1||8.3||4752||Travel|
|26||Four of A Kind||ITV1||8.2||4715||Obs Doc Series|
|27||Embarrassing Bodies||CH4||8.1||4618||Science Series|
|28||Who Do You Think You Are?||BBC1||8.0||4604||Popular History|
|29||Children’s Hospital||ITV1||7.9||4499||Obs Doc Series|
|30||The Biggest Loser||ITV1||7.9||4492||Elimination|
|31||The Corrie Years||ITV1||7.7||4936||Popular History|
|32||The Unforgettable …||ITV1||7.7||4426||Bio Strand|
|33||Jimmy’s Food Factory||BBC 1||7.7||4415||Lifestyle / Science|
|34||Babies Behind Bars||ITV1||7.6||4360||Obs Doc Series|
|35||Traffic Cops||BBC 1||7.5||4306||Clip Show|
- The list is marvelously eclectic!
- The ratings are huge compared with the U.S. where comparable programs are long gone from the broadcast network schedules.
- There is a thriving UK appetite for quality docs of many genres and formats: observational, hosted, classic big Blue Chip, high end Lifestyle, Travel, and so on.
- Strangeways stands out: it’s a classic, tough observational doc about the Manchester prison.
- On the topic of Blue Chip:
- The list includes a number big budget Science, Natural History, History and Archaeology series.
- Many of these categories are close to extinct in the equivalent U.S. Top 50-100 lists.
- Cable channels that once did well with them, like Discovery, History and Nat Geo have shifted away from Blue Chip films that are based on deep specialization in their subject matter, and towards character-driven Reality series
- It was a royal wedding year, so it’s not surprising to see William & Kate joined amongst the top performers by wedding-themed programs like the irresistible Gypsy Weddings.
- Prince Philip’s big, old grumpy 90th birthday interviews earned extra top slots for the Royal category
- The list is very British
- Exceptions that we noticed: # 1 The Apprentice is a U.S. format; and #34 Babies Behind Bars is a U.S. acquisition.
- There is a lot of nostalgia: the royal stuff, countryside lifestyle magazines, pop culture anniversary specials (for Coronation Street) and so on
- Hosted programs are strong performers, despite their often reported burial.
- For all the chatter about them at recent doc conferences, we expected to see more top-rated ‘fixed rig’ shows inspired by Big Brother, like our favorite One Born Every Minute
- For all the chatter about the unique inventiveness of the British TV industry, there are no breakthroughs here.
- Has the fabled UK format engine run out of petrol? Or Malt? Or whatever else it has run on?
Apologies to our UK readers if this is all old hat. And a bit of a repeat from August.
- It’s very challenging stuff to readers who work in the factual sector in most of the rest of the world.
Factual Entertainment Seminar
Hobart, 5-6 March
- Asia Side of the Doc, Tokyo, 17-21 March
- And attending: MIPDOC