Baking is Hot: The Top 50 UK Factual & Lifestyle Programs for 2014, Plus Takeaways

This week we cover the 50 highest-rated Factual + Lifestyle programs in the UK for 2014, plus my Takeaways.

Perfectly Baked.

  • The Great British Bake Off from BBC 1 and Love Productions takes the prize for 2014.
  • Its 23.1 rating and audience of 13.5 million is streets ahead of #2, The Apprentice (14.1 / 8.2mn).
  • Bake Off’s Key Success Factors are ‘Authenticity’ and ‘Relatability.’
  • The amateur bakers in the competition could be family, neighbors, friends and workmates.
  • The producers don’t seem to give their talent a Reality Makeover: the contestants are themselves.
  • Bake Off is steeped in nostalgia, but it feels effortless and unconstructed.
  • I think that even my Mum could have competed. With 5 children and household guests to feed, she filled any gaps by serving a nightly dessert trolley laden with one or two delicious fresh puddings or pies, last night’s baked leftovers, a huge bowl of stewed fruit, plus ice cream, custard and cream.

BakeOff

Look: No Dirty Hands!

  • I recently met with Phil Fairclough, MD of Earth Touch USA, who had just completed a tour of network offices in NYC. I asked him what US commissioners are looking for.
  • He said “They say that they want ‘series that don’t have the producers’ dirty paws all over them.’”
  • That’s The Great British Bake Off!

TOP 50 FACTUAL + LIFESTYLE

Here are the Top 50 Factual programs in UK for 2014 through December 31 (Viewers 4+ / ‘000):

Channel Program Viewers  Rating
1 BBC 1 THE GREAT BRITISH BAKE OFF 13,510 23.1
2 BBC 1 THE APPRENTICE 8,219 14.1
3 BBC 1 COUNTRYFILE 7,295 12.5
4 BBC 2 TOP GEAR PATAGONIA SPECIAL 7,214 12.3
5 BBC 1 MASTERCHEF 6,577 11.2
6 C4 BENEFITS STREET 6,482 11.1
7 BBC 1 ANTIQUES ROADSHOW 6,225 10.6
8 BBC 1 WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE? 6,059 10.4
9 BBC 1 THE QUEEN’S CHRISTMAS MESSAGE 5,969 10.2
10 ITV LONG LOST FAMILY 5,690 9.7
11 BBC 1 POUND SHOP WARS 5,663 9.7
12 BBC 1 CELEBRITY MASTERCHEF 5,527 9.5
13 ITV PAUL O’GRADY: FOR THE LOVE OF DOGS 5,359 9.2
14 BBC 1 DOLPHINS: SPY IN THE POD 5,292 9.0
15 BBC 1 DIY SOS: THE BIG BUILD 5,259 9.0
16 BBC 1 LIFE STORY 5,119 8.8
17 BBC 1 THE ONE SHOW 5,116 8.7
18 BBC 1 DAVID BECKHAM INTO THE UNKNOWN 5,074 8.7
19 ITV SECRET LIFE OF BABIES 4,814 8.2
20 ITV TONIGHT 4,756 8.1
21 C4 GOGGLEBOX 4,670 8.0
22 BBC 1 BRITAIN’S GREAT WAR 4,646 7.9
23 BBC 1 FAKE OR FORTUNE? 4,580 7.8
24 BBC 1 JOHN BISHOP’S AUSTRALIA 4,470 7.6
25 BBC 1 SEVEN WONDERS OF THE COMMONWEALTH 4,376 7.5
26 ITV STUDENT NURSES: BEDPANS + BANDAGES 4,333 7.4
27 BBC 1 WATCHDOG 4,248 7.3
28 BBC 1 PARKING MAD 4,231 7.2
29 ITV PAUL O’GRADY’S ANIMAL ORPHANS 4,176 7.1
30 BBC 1 OPERATION WILD 4,159 7.1
31 ITV GREAT WELSH ADVENTURE / GRIFF RHYS 4,099 7.0
32 BBC 1 INSIDE OUT 4,097 7.0
33 BBC 1 FAKE BRITAIN 4,061 6.9
34 BBC 2 MASTERCHEF: THE PROFESSIONALS 4,043 6.9
35 BBC 1 REMEMBRANCE SUNDAY: THE CENOTAPH 4,014 6.9
36 ITV THE MARTIN LEWIS MONEY SHOW 3,986 6.8
37 ITV 100 YEAR OLD DRIVERS 3,977 6.8
38 BBC 1 DAVINA: BEYOND BREAKING POINT FOR SPORT 3,946 6.7
39 C4 BENEFITS BRITAIN: THE DEBATE 3,937 6.7
40 BBC 1 CRIMEWATCH UK 3,909 6.7
41 BBC 1 FAMOUS, RICH AND HUNGRY 3,872 6.6
42 BBC 1 PANORAMA: DON’T CAP MY BENEFITS 3,833 6.5
43 BBC 1 HIDDEN KINGDOMS 3,801 6.5
44 BBC 1 NATURE’S MIRACLE ORPHANS 3,789 6.5
45 BBC 1 SPRING’S SUPERMARKET SECRETS 3,766 6.4
46 BBC 1 GAZA CRISIS APPEAL 3,741 6.4
47 ITV HARRY’S SOUTH POLE HEROES 3,738 6.4
48 C5 CELEBRITY BIG BROTHER 3,712 6.3
49 BBC 2 MARY BERRY COOKS 3,707 6.3
50 BBC 1 BANG GOES THE THEORY 3,695 6.3

 

MORE TAKEWAYS

Low Budget / Big Punch

  • The BBC’s Countryfile comes in at #3 (12.5 rating / 7.3mn). For 25+ years, this weekly hour has drawn viewers to its snapshots of rural life. Read our earlier coverage here.
  • #8 Antiques Roadshow is in its incredible 38th year as a hit series (10.6 / 6.2mn).
  • These two quiet, low-budget hits are tentpoles for BBC1 viewers, and they punch far above their weights, round after round.

Low Gear

  • Top Gear: Patagonia Special (12.3 / 7.2mn) tugged the ugly chain of British chauvinism by reminding Argentines of their Malvinas/Falklands disaster.

Poverty Pawn?

  • Channel 4’s risky Obs doc series Benefits Street covers the residents of one of Britain’s most welfare-dependent streets.
  • The characters seem to be less ‘deserving poor’ than skilled gamers of the welfare system.
  • Benefits is the remarkable #6 viewed program in 2014 (11.1 / 6.5mn).
  • Benefits Britain: The Live Debate ended this contentious series, and despite a stilted TV format, ranked #39 (6.7 / 3.9mn).

Becks & Other Royals

  • The Queen’s Christmas Message (#9) led a fading year for royals.
  • David Beckham (#19) shows off his huge star power by channeling Motorcyle Diaries in a 90-minute feature doc.
  • Prince Harry’s South Pole Heroes is at the #47 slot.

Formats

  • Who Do You Think You Are? Celebrity MasterChef, DIY SOS and other formats populate the Top 20.
  • As we go down the list, the more classic Factual one-offs and limited series come to the fore.

Wildlife: Blue Chip & Popular

  • Dolphins (#14 / 5.3mn) built on last years’ BBC-NHU Penguins hit by using breakthrough camera kit to deliver unique access and great ratings (5.2mn).
  • Despite the lame title, the David Attenborough-hosted Life Story earned 5.1mn viewers.

Only the BBC has the massive resources to claim: “The Life Story team spent 1900 days filming the series, in 29 countries across six continents. They traveled a total of 1,850,798 miles… They recorded a total of 1800 hours of footage – that’s 300 terabytes of data, or the equivalent of 64,000 DVD’s.”

  • The other Wildlife program in our Top 20 is the popular hosted special Paul O’Grady’s For the Love of Dogs (5.4mn).
  • And, not ‘Wildlife’ because their wild days are yet to come: ITV’s Secret Life Of Babies earned 4.8mn viewers.

Two Surprises

  • The Blue Chip History genre takes a knock versus 2013, with only Britain’s Great War in the Top 25, with 4.6mn viewers.
  • The BBC’s Gaza Crisis Appeal (#46) earned 3.7mn viewers. The program raised funds for stricken Gaza following Israel’s Operation Protective Edge. The scheduling of the Special by the BBC, and its considerable audience, would have been unthinkable not long ago, and is a measure of the shift in Europe’s public opinion against Israel’s strategies versus the Palestinians. I have a particular family interest because my grandfather’s three brothers fought in Gaza in 1917 with the Australian (AIF) forces, helping the British take Palestine, including Jerusalem, from the Ottomans.

UK Compared with US

  • Many of the successful UK genres are extinct in the equivalent US Top 100.
  • The ratings are huge compared with US audiences for comparable programs.
  • The UK programming pipeline may lack breakthrough ideas right now, but it steadily delivers a mix of remarkably high-quality and diverse unscripted entertainments.

More to Come

  • In upcoming weeks, we’ll examine how the US Reality genre has grown stale, leading to eroding ratings for the leading non-fiction channels.
  • Coupled with a marginal but definitely unsettling shift to SVOD viewing, many analysts see tough times coming for the US unscripted sector.

Notes

  • The data covers Factual and Lifestyle programs. Viewers are 4+. Includes catchup. We selected the best-performing episode of series.

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Speaking Engagements

Realscreen Summit
Washington DC, January 27-30 2015

Formula For A Hit, January 28, 3:45pm.

  • As the television industry evolves to meet the threats of fragmenting media head on, so too do the methods to determine what should make it onto a particular network’s air.
  • In an era increasingly driven by big data, in which algorithms and analytics have increasing influence in programming choices, how are broadcasters adapting their metrics, measurement and marketing techniques to grab, and keep, eyeballs?
  • Find out the answers to these questions and more from some of the top minds in TV research.

Panel

Julie Taylor, SVP, Program Planning & Strategy, HGTV, DIY Network + Great American Country
Brad Dancer, SVP, Programming, Planning & Research, National Geographic Channel
Don Micallef, VP Research, Discovery Communications
Don Robert, SVP, Research & Analytics, A+E Networks
Peter Hamilton, Moderator

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