BrokenTV's Telly Yule (B)Log: Day Two

Onto the second day of our Christlemas Parade, and it's time to look at one of the traditional complaints about modern Christmas telly. "Eeh, it's not as good as it used to be. You used to get thirty million people watching Mike Yarwood, you know", is something uttered quite often, even if it's usually from the mouth of someone who used to be on our screens in the 1970s, and they're about to start going on about Political Correctness. And, of course, they're not completely wrong.

It's clear that the rise of digital TV, the increased popularity of videogaming and DVDs (and hey, maybe even going out and doing stuff) has had an effect on viewing figures for the 'proper' channels over the years. But then, we're saying the fact that where you once had Morecambe & Wise or The Two Ronnies strutting their stuff over the schedules on the 25th, and you now have Lucas, Walliams and Tate doing their catchphrases in slightly different settings instead, that's got to be a factor too. But anyway, let's take a look at a dull graph.

All figures are taken from BARB's website, and only the viewing figures for a single broadcast of a show are used (meaning there's no figure padding from omnibus editions). The figures for each year are taken from the full Christmas Week (that is, the week containing the 25th of December for each year).



And there you go. Note how the figures are on a rather obvious downward trend for the big two, save for a Trotters-comeback spike for BBC One from 2001. However, the others have remained largely consistent over the nine years, with Five even posting a notable increase in viewers over the years. Most of the years show BBC One winning the ratings battle, but given the cliche that ITV never bother making an effort over Christmas, they don't perform too badly. Unless, of course, all their figures are from Coronation Street alone. Maybe we'll say whether that's the case in our bullet points of

SOME THINGS WE HAVE NOTICED FROM LOOKING AT LOTS OF CHRISTMAS WEEK VIEWING FIGURES
  • BBC Two's most popular programme over Christmas Week in 2001 being a repeat of Dad's Army (5.16m viewers).

  • Brookside managing to remain Channel Four's most popular festive offering, right up until 2002, where it promptly disappears from the list.

  • 100 Greatest Films making Channel Four's top 3 Christmas shows of 2002, and top stop with '...Musicals' in 2003, inspiring them to churn out increasingly desperate (and disparate) imitations. This reaches its nadir in 2007 with 100 Greatest Catchphrases (we're not making this up), at which point we predict Channel Four will promptly disappear up Andy Duncan's arse.

  • The disappointing Only Fools and Horses comeback specials giving BBC One a boost from 2001. The show did drop 4.97m viewers between the first and third of the specials. And quite right, because they were pretty bad.

  • ITV's top threes for each year all being Coronation Street. It's worth noting that the show they'd imagined as being their Christmas saviour on Christmas Day 2003, World Idol (it's like the World Cup of Pop Idolitary!) attracted a meagre 4.55m viewers, sneaking just 29th point on the ITV1 top 30 for that week.

  • BBC Two's biggest Christmas week audience since 1998 being for 2005's Catherine Tate Christmas Show (5.66m). That was more than the same year's ill-advised Big Family Christmas Day Comedy on BBC One, The Green Green Grass (a piffling 4.59m). Boycie's mirth-lite adventures also attracted less of an audience than the same week's showing of big hitters Watchdog, The National Lottery: Millionaire Manor and The Six O'Clock News (Tue). It just beat the repeat of Open All Hours, though.

  • Five saw it's audience grow notably from around 2002, where it realised flinging on episode of various CSIs was a lot more popular than actually commissioning a programme itself.

  • In 2006, BBC Two's most popular Christmas Week programme was It Started With Swap Shop (3.99m). This almost makes up for that Catherine Tate thing two bullet points back. The same year saw Deal Or No Deal become possibly Channel Four's biggest Christmas Show since The Snowman. A stunning nine of their top ten shows for the week involved Noel and The Banker, with just The Big Fat Quiz Of The Year spoiling the party in sixth place. That's an aggregate total of 29.59 million viewers. Jeepers.

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