Brits and Americans are two peoples separated by lots more than a common language.
- For a start, take the television viewing preferences of the world’s #1 and #2 English-speaking television markets.
A friend shared a recent a top level report on the ratings of UK Factual and Documentary programs broadcast this year through the end of July.
Here are the shows, with our Takeaways and Comments below:
|1||The Apprentice: The Final||BBC 1||17.8||10239||Elimination|
|2||Big Fat Gypsy Weddings||CH4||15.8||9050||Obs Doc Series|
|3||Moving On: The Walton Sextuplets||ITV1||11.3||6499||Obs Doc Series|
|4||Strangeways||ITV1||10.9||6267||Prison Doc Series|
|6||The Duke At 90||BBC 1||9.5||5462||Bio|
|7||Richard Hammond’s Journey to the Centre||BBC 1||9.4||5389||Science|
|8||My Big Fat Royal Gypsy Wedding||CH4||9.3||5321||Obs Doc|
|9||Human Planet||BBC 1||9.2||5284||Sci / Nat Hist|
|10||Prince Philip At 90||ITV1||8.9||5110||Bio|
|12||Long Lost Family||ITV1||8.8||5027||Doc Series|
|13||The Corrie Years||ITV1||8.6||4936||Popular History|
|14||Egypt’s Lost Cities||BBC 1||8.6||4917||Archaeology|
|15||Terry Wogan’s Ireland||BBC 1||8.3||4752||Travel|
|16||Four of A Kind||ITV1||8.2||4715||Obs Doc Series|
|17||Embarrassing Bodies||CH4||8.1||4618||Science Series|
|18||Children’s Hospital||ITV1||7.9||4499||Obs Doc Series|
|19||The Biggest Loser||ITV1||7.9||4492||Elimination|
|20||The Unforgettable …||ITV1||7.7||4426||Bio Strand|
|21||Jimmy’s Food Factory||BBC 1||7.7||4415||Lifestyle / Sci|
|22||Babies Behind Bars||ITV1||7.6||4360||Obs Doc Series|
|23||Traffic Cops||BBC 1||7.5||4306||Clip Show|
|24||Poms in Paradise||ITV1||7.5||4292||Travel / Lifestyle|
|25||Inside the Human Body||BBC 1||7.5||4271||Science Series|
|26||Kate in Canada||ITV1||7.5||4280||Curr Affs Special|
|27||Strictly Kosher||ITV1||7.4||4266||Obs Doc Series|
|28||The Dales||ITV1||7.4||4226||Obs Doc Series|
|29||The Great British Weather||BBC 1||7.4||4237||Science Series|
|30||The Lakes (Series 2)||ITV1||7.3||4147||Travel Series|
|31||Britain’s Royal Weddings||BBC 1||7.2||4105||History Specials|
|32||Famous, Rich + In the Slums w/Comic Relief||BBC 1||7.2||4101||Travel / Doc|
|33||Madagascar||BBC 2||7.1||4063||Travel / Nat Hist|
|34||The Betty Driver Story||ITV1||7.1||4028||Popular History|
|36||William & Kate – In Their Words||ITV1||6.9||3951||Curr Affs Special|
|37||Motorway Cops||BBC 1||6.9||3950||Cop Doc Series|
|38||Secret Mediterranean w/ Trevor McDonald||ITV1||6.9||3917||Travel|
|39||Wonders of the Universe||BBC 2||6.8||3905||Science|
|40||One Born Every Minute||CH4||6.8||3889||Obs Doc Series|
- The list is wonderfully eclectic!
- The ratings are huge compared with U.S. audiences for comparable programs
- 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
- 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 even 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
- Popular, edgy Science series like Channel 4’s Embarrassing Bodies still attract big UK audiences
- It was a royal wedding year, so it’s not surprising to see William & Kate join wedding-themed programs, like the irresistible Gypsy Weddings, amongst the top performers
- Prince Philip’s big, old grumpy 90th birthday interviews earned a couple of extra top slots for the Royal category
- The list is very British
- Exceptions that we noticed are: # 1 The Apprentice is a U.S. format; and #22 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.
- Travel remains a top performing Factual category, although there is no current long-running breakout travel hit like Wish You Were Here
- 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
BTW, the top-rated program on all UK television was the BBC’s 5.5 hour Royal Wedding telecast, which earned 13.6 million average viewers, a 24 Rating and 63! Share.
Apologies to our UK readers if this is all old hat. It’s refreshing stuff to readers located in most of the rest of the world.
From a “Preferred Producer”
The interesting thing about Gypsy Wedding like Swamp People is that it speaks to a global fascination with “internal” and “within our borders” subcultures. The foreigner within, the enemy within, the stranger within. Same with Hoarders and crime stuff like “the murderer next door.” Personally I think the quickly changing world has made everyone question their core values and roots. They are wondering who they are and what they share with people and ideas they formerly thought were “outsiders.” They are realizing they are them, we are them, same with all the Zombie stuff as well. It’s interesting!
And a “Preferred U.S. Programming Executive”
Peter, this is interesting. It would be even more so if we knew the top-rated programs among the advertisers’ target audiences, adults 18-49 or 25-54, or whatever the analogous British target is. you might see a very different list.