Top 100 UK Factual Programs, 1H 2020. ‘Land & Country’ is the winning theme in the Covid Era

In a series of posts, I’ll share the UK’s highest-rated documentary and unscripted programs for the half-year in which Covid struck.

My ratings snapshot for 1H 2020 is comprised of:

  • The Top 50 in the combined Documentary and Lifestyle / Hobbies category.
  • My Takeaways.
  • Then #51-100.

Going deeper

  • In future posts, I’ll share the Top 25 History and Wildlife programs.

The challenging landscape

  • The UK is the #2 English-speaking television market.
  • A generously-funded Factual sector has been the world-leading creative innovator for generations.

However, the industry is enduring the triple disruptions of:

  • COVID: notably the dive in advertising revenues and disruptions to the production pipeline.
  • The rise of Netflix and other streaming platforms.
  • And a reactionary government that is deeply hostile to the BBC.

For the broadcasters, this dramatic shift translates into a shrinking and ageing audience, and waves of budget cuts of uncertain scale.

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.
  • Ratings for Netflix and other streamers are not available or included in Share.
  • Some programs were scheduled before the COVID shutdowns.

UK Broadcast Audience
Documentary & Hobbies Category
Top 50 1H
2020

Channel Program ‘000 P4+ Share
1 BBC 1 Antiques Roadshow 7,846 29.0
2 BBC 1 The Repair Shop 6,885 28.9
3 BBC 1 Countryfile 6,729 34.7
4 ITV Bradley Walsh & Son: Breaking Dad 5,799 27.0
5 BBC 1 The Real Marigold Hotel 5,758 22.7
6 ITV Long Lost Family: Born Without Trace 5,657 24.6
7 ITV Bradley Walsh: Happy 60th Birthday 4,848 20.6
8 BBC 2 Top Gear 4,603 16.8
9 BBC 1 Ambulance 4,525 21.7
10 ITV Welcome to HMP Belmarsh 4,457 18.3
11 BBC 1 Dame Vera Lynn: We’ll Meet Again 4,256 25.5
12 BBC 1 Primates 4,211 16.8
13 BBC 1 Garden Rescue 4,190 21.5
14 BBC 2 Inside Monaco: Playground of Rich 4,178 17.8
15 BBC 1 Eat Well for Less? 4,029 18.7
16 BBC 1 Blue Planet Revisited 3,942 23.2
17 ITV Cilla: The Lost Tapes 3,844 17.7
18 C4  24 Hours in Police Custody 3,824 14.6
19 BBC 2 A House Through Time 3,816 17.5
20 ITV Absolutely India: Mancs in Mumbai 3,807 17.0
21 BBC 2 Gardeners’ World 3,798 16.1
22 BBC 1 A Tribute to Dame Vera Lynn 3,522 19.9
23 ITV The Greek Islands with Julia Bradbury 3,501 16.9
24 C4  Murder in the Outback 3,421 16.6
25 BBC 1 True North 3,382 17.0
26 ITV Joanna Lumley’s Hidden Caribbean 3,341 14.7
27 BBC 1 Easy Ways to Live Well 3,326 15.7
28 ITV Britain’s Best Walks with Julia Bradbury 3,325 19.3
29 BBC 1 Sir David Jason at 80 3,293 20.3
30 ITV Tyson Fury: The Gypsy King 3,178 14.1
31 ITV St David’s: Britain’s Smallest City 3,170 12.2
32 ITV Love Your Garden 3,164 15.8
33 BBC 1 RHS Chelsea Flower Show 3,157 21.8
34 BBC 2 Inside the Factory 3,146 13.0
35 BBC 1 DIY SOS 3,002 15.5
36 BBC 2 Springwatch 2,971 16.2
37 BBC 1 Our Lives 2,948 15.0
38 ITV Grow Your Own At Home 2,945 15.2
39 ITV Paul O’Grady: For the Love of Dogs 2,944 13.1
40 ITV Captain Tom’s War 2,876 14.4
41 BBC 1 The Truth About… 2,870 15.5
42 BBC 1 Rio and Kate: Becoming a Stepfamily 2,868 12.8
43 BBC 1 Spy in the Wild 2,862 11.3
44 BBC 1 Blue Planet II 2,814 18.2
45 BBC 2 Murder 24/7 2,808 10.8
46 ITV Britain’s Busiest Motorway 2,709 14.2
47 C4  Barrymore: The Body in the Pool 2,708 14.0
48 BBC 1 Bargain Hunt 2,695 29.1
49 ITV Ross Kemp: On the NHS Frontline 2,665 12.6
50 ITV Inside the Crown: Secrets of the Royals 2,659 10.5

Read my Takeaways below…

TAKEAWAYS

Land & Country

  • The hit breakthrough of COVID is the folksy, sentimental Repair Shop in which damaged family treasures are brought back to life by accomplished craftspeople.
  • The series is led by the relatable and expert host, furniture restorer Jay Blades.
  • Antiques Roadshow returns to #1, and Countryfile rides at #3 — a trifecta that confirms the British audience’s appetite for nostalgia in a hard time.

Natural History / Pets

  • The Natural History genre relies mainly on returns to the archive (Primates) and to strong franchises (Blue Planet, Springwatch, Penguins), and evergreen locations (Attenborough and the Giant Egg).
  • ITV’s How To Keep Your Dog Happy at Home strikes the perfect note for COVID isolators.
  • It’s balanced on the ugly canine side by Channel 5’s Dogs Behaving (Very) Badly (Misses Top 100 at #135)

History

  • A House Through Time (#19) is a standout for BBC2, and ticks the “homey” COVID mood of the year.
  • Other History notables are Captain Tom’s War (hero-story), Back in Time for the Corner Shop (nostalgia), Princess Anne and Our Queen at War (Royals) .
  • They all lead the darker stories from the past: Keeler, Profumo, Ward and Me, and Return to Belsen.

Talent Tops Crime

  • Great British crimes and criminals are noticeably less present than in 2019: There’s enough dark and edgy outside already.
  • The Top 50 is more populated with comfortable and often loveable talent of today and yesterday.
  • See: Bradley Walsh, Cilla, Vera Lynn, Attenborough, and many more.
  • Crime meets Talent in Welcome to HMP Belmarsh (#10), where the relatable Ross Kemp leads us inside a notorious maximum security prison.
  • C4’s Murder in the Outback (#24) somewhat bucked the trend.

Royals Downgraded

  • Looking outside the Factual category, The Queen’s Covid Address attracted more than 14 million viewers and an astounding 45.8 share.
  • The Windsor family were less present in the 2019 Top 100 Factual than previously.
  • The dry spell continues with fewer births, weddings, birthdays, anniversaries and funerals that could be covered in COVID.
  • HRH Andrew‘s deepening troubles don’t help.

Those are my Takeaways for the moment. LMK if you disagree. And watch out for my related posts on the Top 25 for History and Wildlife.

Here for my heaviest readers are #51-100:

UK Broadcast Audience
Documentary & Hobbies Category
Top 51-100 1H
2020

Channel Program ‘000 Share
51 ITV The Metro: A Rail Life Story 2,612 13.9
52 ITV The Station: Trouble on the Tracks 2,606 11.7
53 BBC 2 Back in Time for the Corner Shop 2,600 12.7
54 ITV The Village 2,560 12.2
55 C4  Devon and Cornwall 2,552 12.5
56 ITV Ross Kemp: Living with… 2,548 14.3
57 BBC 1 Football, Prince William + Mental Health 2,509 14.7
58 C4  Location, Location, Location 2,503 10.7
59 ITV In the Land of the Midnight Sun 2,468 11.0
60 C5 A & E After Dark 2,442 11.3
61 ITV Coronation Street Icons: Audrey Roberts 2,437 13.7
62 BBC 2 Cornwall: This Fishing Life 2,411 11.8
63 C4  Catching a Killer 2,364 10.4
64 C4  24 Hours in A&E 2,333 9.1
65 BBC 1 Escape to the Country 2,315 18.8
66 BBC 1 Stacey Dooley 2,281 15.4
67 BBC 1 Life and Birth 2,281 10.8
68 C4  Prue Leith: Journey with My Daughter 2,268 8.4
69 BBC 1 Attenborough and the Giant Egg 2,261 13.7
70 C4  Kirstie and Phil’s Love It or List It 2,246 11.4
71 BBC 2 Your Home Made Perfect 2,207 11.2
72 ITV Secrets of the Driving Test 2,203 10.1
73 ITV Unbelievable Moments, On Camera 2,199 10.6
74 ITV Griff’s Great Australian Adventure 2,166 10.9
75 C5 Princess Anne: The Daughter… 2,163 12.0
76 C4  George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces 2,147 8.8
77 BBC 1 Antiques Road Trip 2,146 20.4
78 BBC 1 Critical Incident 2,140 11.0
79 BBC 2 Villages by the Sea 2,085 10.7
80 ITV Our Queen at War 2,078 9.2
81 ITV Tales From the Coast 2,076 8.8
82 BBC 2 Hospital 2,067 9.3
83 BBC 2 Louis Theroux 2,061 7.4
84 C5 Warship: Life At Sea 2,050 9.0
85 BBC 2 Stacey Dooley Investigates 2,034 8.5
86 ITV Save Money: Lose Weight 2,032 10.7
87 C5 The Yorkshire Vet 2,024 10.1
88 BBC 2 Keeler, Profumo, Ward and Me 2,022 13.7
89 ITV Return to Belsen 2,017 8.3
90 C5 Police Interceptors 2,011 9.7
91 BBC 2 Miriam’s Big Fat Adventure 1,987 8.2
92 C5 Police: Hour of Duty 1,964 8.1
93 C4  The Mum Who Got Tourette’s 1,958 8.0
94 BBC 2 Russia with Simon Reeve 1,945 9.1
95 BBC 2 Winterwatch 1,943 9.6
96 BBC 2 John Le Mesurier 1,936 11.6
97 C5 William & Kate: Too Good to Be True? 1,932 11.1
98 BBC 2 Murder Trial: Margaret Fleming 1,917 7.0
99 BBC 2 Pilgrimage 1,912 7.5
100 BBC 1 Penguins – Spy in the Huddle 1,910 14.1

More

  • Read the Top 25 Wildlife / Natural History programs
  • And the Top History 25
  • Don’t miss my interview notes with BBC History buyer Simon Young at Sunny Side. Includes his insights concerning A House Through Time
  • And watch my Sunny Side Interview on Channel 4’s strategy: What do they want? What do they pay?