The latest UK unscripted viewing data is always a pleasant surprise for this US-based viewer.
- The quality and eclectic mix stand out year after year.
- There is a thriving appetite for nonfiction programs across genres and formats.
- They include obs docs, hosted series and specials, Blue Chip Wildlife, popular Science, high end Lifestyle, Travel, and so on.
Here is a chart of the Top 50 Factual programs in UK for 2014 through July 31 (Viewers 4+ / ‘000):
|BBC 2||TOP GEAR||7,006||24.4||Leisure|
|BBC 1||ANTIQUES ROADSHOW||6,225||24.0||Leisure|
|BBC 1||DOLPHINS: SPY IN THE POD||5,292||20.3||Factual|
|BBC 1||DIY SOS: THE BIG BUILD||5,259||22.8||Leisure|
|BBC 1||DAVID BECKHAM INTO THE UNKNOWN||5,074||20.0||Factual|
|BBC 1||CELEBRITY MASTERCHEF||4,938||21.6||Leisure|
|BBC 1||BRITAIN’S GREAT WAR||4,646||16.3||Factual|
|BBC 1||FAKE OR FORTUNE?||4,580||20.0||Leisure|
|ITV||SECRET LIFE OF…||4,325||16.2||Factual|
|BBC 1||PARKING MAD||4,231||17.5||Factual|
|BBC 1||INSIDE OUT||4,097||17.0||Factual|
|BBC 1||DAVINA: BEYOND BREAKING POINT FOR SPORT||3,946||15.9||Factual|
|ITV||PAUL O’GRADY’S ANIMAL ORPHANS||3,835||14.1||Factual|
|ITV||STUDENT NURSES: BEDPANS + BANDAGES||3,806||16.8||Factual|
|BBC 1||HIDDEN KINGDOMS||3,801||15.3||Factual|
|ITV||A GREAT WELSH ADVENTURE WITH GRIFF RHYS||3,787||14.3||Factual|
|CH5||CELEBRITY BIG BROTHER||3,712||15.1||Factual|
|BBC 2||MARY BERRY COOKS||3,707||14.1||Leisure|
|BBC 1||BANG GOES THE THEORY||3,695||15.8||Factual|
|CH4||ONE BORN EVERY MINUTE||3,663||12.5||Factual|
|BBC 1||MONKEY PLANET||3,635||14.9||Factual|
|CH4||BENEFITS STREET: THE LAST WORD||3,599||13.7||Factual|
|BBC 2||THE GREAT BRITISH SEWING BEE||3,494||13.2||Leisure|
|BBC 1||HOLIDAY HIT SQUAD||3,477||15.4||Leisure|
|ITV||HARRY’S SOUTH POLE HEROES||3,377||13.6||Factual|
|BBC 1||24 HOURS ON EARTH||3,358||14.8||Factual|
|CH4||24 HOURS IN A & E||3,352||13.6||Factual|
|BBC 1||THE RHS CHELSEA FLOWER SHOW||3,339||16.1||Leisure|
|ITV||BILLY CONNOLLY’S BIG SEND OFF||3,311||13.6||Factual|
|CH4||THE ISLAND WITH BEAR GRYLLS||3,292||13.5||Factual|
|ITV||MARTIN CLUNES & A LION CALLED MUGIE||3,266||13.7||Factual|
|BBC 2||DRAGONS’ DEN||3,265||12.2||Factual|
|ITV||THE WALTON SEXTUPLETS AT 30||3,249||14.0||Factual|
|ITV||LOVE YOUR GARDEN||3,241||16.0||Leisure|
|CH4||DAVID BLAINE: REAL OR MAGIC||3,180||9.5||Factual|
|CH4||LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION||3,132||12.4||Leisure|
|ITV||CORONATION STREET: A MOVING STORY||3,132||12.1||Factual|
|ITV||QUADS: OUR FIRST YEAR||3,098||14.0||Factual|
|BBC 1||A TRIBUTE TO ROGER LLOYD PACK||3,079||17.2||Factual|
|BBC 1||THE TREASURE HUNTERS||3,035||11.6||Factual|
|BBC 2||STARGAZING LIVE||3,001||11.9||Factual|
|BBC 2||OPERATION GRAND CANYON WITH DAN SNOW||2,962||9.3||Factual|
|BBC 2||DAVE ALLEN: GOD’S OWN COMEDIAN||2,953||11.4||Factual|
The list combines BARB’s Factual and Hobbies/Lifestyle categories.
I’m short on time today, but here are my quick Takeaways for 1H 2014:
Low Budget / Big Punch
- The BBC’s Countryfile leads them all, leaving even Top Gear well behind in Share.
- For 25+ years, this weekly hour has drawn viewers to its portraits of a rural way of life that is generations-distant for most of them.
- Antiques Roadshow is in its incredible 37th year as a hit series, and comes in at #5.
- Countryfile and AR are tentpoles for BBC1: I hope that the BBC execs have the good sense to put aside their dreams of BAFTA’s and celebrity lunches for long enough to invest in the production and promotion of these efficient hits that punch far, far above their weights.
- Channel 4’s risky Obs doc series Benefits Street covers the residents of one of Britain’s most welfare-dependent streets, and comes in at a remarkable #4 with a 22.8 share.
- Its hard to explain the success of Benefits: big factors are memorable casting centred on two big characters “White Dee” and Back Dee” who shamelessly game the crumbs of the UK welfare system.
Becks Does Che
- David Beckham (#8) shows off his huge starpower by channeling Motorcyle Diaries in a 90-minute Brazilian adventure feature doc that coincided with the World Cup.
- Beck’s promotable experiences include ‘the difficulty of sleeping in a hammock.’
- Hosts are back: Like Beckham, they are often celebs from other fields who are embedded in the action. (See Royals below.)
- Top Gear, MasterChef, DIY SOS and Leisure formats populate the Top 10, but as we go down the list, the more classic Factual one-offs and limited series come to the fore.
Natural History: Blue Chip & Popular
- Dolphins (#6) builds on last years’ BBC-NHU Penguins hit by using breakthrough camera kit to deliver unique underwater access and great ratings.
- The other Wildlife programs in our Top 20 are the ‘cute-heavy’ popular hosted specials, The Secret Life of … Cats / Babies from OSF, and Paul O’Grady’s Animal Orphans.
History / Royals
- The History genre fell back versus 2013, with only Britain’s Great War in the Top 20. Let’s see what 2H14 brings.
- Royals thankfully tumbled off or down the list: Harry’s South Pole Heroes slogs in below expectations at the #28 slot.
Originality: Keep It Simple!
- Not on the list but high on my ranking for originality and simplicity is Nat Geo UK‘s The Science of Stupid. Hosted by Top Gear‘s Richard Hammond, Stupid explains the science behind YouTube clips of people doing dumb and usually painful things. Sample segments include ‘Fork Lift Catastrophe.’ Inexpensive, compelling, funny, super title, clear concept: Stupid will go global… and run and run forever.
- The closest to a breakthrough idea on our Top 50 is Gogglebox, in which brilliantly cast couch potatoes comment on their TV viewing experiences.
- We covered Gogglebox in our post on ‘What’s the Buzz’ at the 2013 Montreal World Congress.
Compared with US
- The ratings are huge compared with U.S. audiences for comparable programs.
- Most of these successful UK categories are extinct in the equivalent U.S. Top 50.
- The avalanche of Reality series that buried so much quality US Factual since the ‘Nineties has lost its momentum.
- It’s been years since A&E’s Duck Dynasty was the last breakout Reality series.
- The genre has grown stale, derivative, and even more yicky, leading to eroding ratings for the leading non-fiction channels like History, A&E and Discovery.
- Meanwhile, the UK pipeline goes on delivering