Thursday, 26 July 2012

LIST SPECIAL: The Fifty Most-Watched (and Least-Watched) TV Channels In The UK, 2012


Channel 4 have recently been running a series of programmes looking at mental disorders, and the stigma often unfairly attached to them. The most enjoyable of these so far was Tuesday night’s A LITTLE BIT OCD, where nowhere-near-as-popular-as-he-bloody-well-should-be comedian Jon Richardson spoke to sufferers of the disorder, and considered whether his own compulsion for having everything in order meant he was a victim of it himself.

In that slightly attention-seeking “look, we’re suffering too! Albeit at a microscopically low level!” way you know and tolerate us for, we can relate to that. The volume on our TV always has to be set at a figure ending in an even number (unless it ends in ‘5’, which is acceptable because it’s a nice clean number). When scrolling through a web page we’re reading, we have to keep our scrolling so that text at the top of the window isn’t cut off half way. Hard to explain, so here’s what we mean:


On the left, a web page where the scrolling has been stopped in a WHOLLY UNACCEPTABLE POSITION. On the right, order has been restored to the universe and our skin can now stop itching. And really, not exaggerating there – that kind of thing really does annoy us. Even the occasional stray pixel of the tail from a ‘y’ creeping into the top of a browser window just has to be corrected before we can concentrate on reading something properly. Which is possibly why it takes us ages to get anything done.

Anyway, another thing that we often need to correct before going about our day (or putting down the iPad and getting out of bed, whatever) is thinking of an utterly pointless question that no-one in their right mind could really care about, and then having to know the answer before doing anything else.

Usually, Google, Wikipedia or Twitter can provide us with an answer. Occasionally, it’s almost certainly an answer based on guesswork, but that doesn’t really matter. We’ll have a modicum of order in what can loosely be defined as ‘our lives’, and we can move on to bigger things (or getting dressed), secure in the knowledge that we now know when postcodes were first used in Britain. 11 October 1959, if you were wondering. (Though now we’ve looked up which day of the week that was, and it was a Sunday, which makes NO SENSE AT ALL TO US. Gah. Unless it was at 11:59pm on the Sunday for technically reasons, so more or less Monday 12 October 1959. Yes, that makes a kind of sense. Phew.)

Occasionally though, the question will be one that no-one has bothered answering, generally for a very good reason. Which, of course, simply Will Not Do. So, we’ll then have to work out the answer for ourselves.

Case in point, our semi-regular looks at the most- and least-watched TV channels on the British digital gigaplex. It’s been about a year since we last looked at the nation’s favourite and least loved networks, so it’s probably time we updated things.

HOW IT WORKS: nabbing the “digital top 10s” data from the perpetually excellent for several weeks, working out the average viewing figure an individual broadcast of a programme needs to make that top ten for every single channel, then plonking it all in a great big lovely list. Every channel to report their viewing figures to BARB is included (223 channels in all), and the last weeks of April, May and June 2012 have been calculated, so that no channel receives an unfair boost from popular short-term events like Euro 2012.

For those too damn lazy to click on the previous hyperlinks (tsk), last time we looked at this kind of thing, the top ten were ITV1, BBC1, BBC2, Channel 4, Channel 5, ITV2, BBC Three, E4, ITV3 and Sky1, in that order. Back then, we accounted for +1 and HD channels in the figures – this time we haven’t because it’ll be interesting to see how the timeshifted and high-def channels are performing on their own (and because we forgot to add them up before making the tables below). 

Here goes:


So. What does that teach us? No, not that we’ve got too much time on our hands, everyone already knew that. BBC One has taken top spot from ITV1, helped in part by bagging a huge 21 million viewers for their broadcast of the Euro 2012 clash between England and Sweden. There’s a case to point out that adding in figures for ITV1 HD and ITV1+1 puts it ahead of BBC One, but sadly BARB don’t report (at least publically) any figures for BBC One HD, so we can’t make a true comparison there.

Other things of interest: positions three to five are as they were, with BBC2, C4 and C5 remaining in the same positions as last year. With three sets of top ten shows almost entirely made up of Family Guy repeats (yep, really), BBC Three sneaks ahead of ITV2, even if the numbers for both channels are slightly down year on year. Slightly lower down the list, BBC Four is now battling with Sky1 for a place in the top ten. Probably fair to say that a big factor in Sky1’s downfall is Sky’s decision to put the majority of their new entertainment programming on Sky Atlantic (which entirely coincidentally isn’t available on cable – what are the odds, eh?). Not that an impressive roster of new comedy seems to be helping Sky Atlantic much – a year ago their average ‘score’ was 266.35, while this year it’s slipped to 204.10. At the same time, BBC Four’s figure has remained pretty similar (494.35 last year, 492.33 this year).

Channel 4’s decision to make More4 rubbish doesn’t seem to have paid ratings-based dividends. In 2011, the average rating of a top ten show on More4 was 610,000 viewers. For 2012, the endless repeats of Grand Designs and Come Dine With Me are bringing an average of 379,000 viewers per top ten programme. Meanwhile, E4 has held pretty steady, showing that showing nothing but repeats of The Inbetweeners is pretty much as effective as showing nothing but repeats of Friends.

One slight surprise is the increasing unpopularity of G.O.L.D. Back in the days when Sky came through a coal-powered decoder rather than a digibox, UK Gold was about as big as non-Murdoch channels came. Nowadays, a relentless flood of the same two dozen episodes of Porridge, Vicar of Dibley and The Green bloody Green bloody Grass isn’t working so well, with the channel slipping from 195.63 to 133.20. It’s even below Disney Junior in our rundown. Disney Junior!

In other news: StarzTV – a channel comprised wholly of awful R&B music and text messages from people who can’t spell – is more popular than BBC News, Sky Atlantic, FX, Comedy Central and Challenge. On the one hand, it’s nice to see a music channel can still prove to be so popular in this day and age. On the other hand, our fingers are all wet with all the tears we’ve just wept for humanity.

Anyway, speaking of music channels, shall we pay some of them a visit in their natural habitat? More commonly known as “The Fifty Least-Watched UK TV Channels in 2012”.

Last time we looked at this, the least popular channels were (in ascending order) WTF TV, NME TV, Q, Scuzz, Community Channel, MTV Rocks, Bliss, ESPN America, Dance Nation and Men & Movies. How many of them will still be rooted to the bottom? How many of them will even still exist? And why did we title the following graphic “Top 50 Least-Watched UK TV Channels”? Ah well, too late to change to correct to something more grammatically sensible now.


So, while last time around seven of the bottom ten were music channels, this time only three music channels are loitering around the arse-end of our rundown. Some, like NME TV, have disappeared from broadcasting, while some (like WTF TV – since rebranded as ‘Massive R&B’) have stopped reporting viewing figures. In some cases though, music channels have become slightly more popular – Bliss, Scuzz, Kerrang and even MTV Rocks have all risen up the list notably, increasing their viewing figures to match. Apart, that is, from poor old Q, still languishing second from bottom of the list. We can’t imagine how it’s still going really, unless the 17 people who watch the channel slavishly buy everything advertised on it, thereby keeping advertising rates high.

Also near the bottom, Wedding TV. Last time around, the channel was sitting in a relatively respectable 136th place, albeit thanks to each programme in their top ten being a repeat of Bridezillas. This time around, they seem to have lost the rights to their most popular show – about half the shows in the top tens for the channel are that big old ratings hitter, um, ‘Teleshopping’.

Bottom of them all though – and the only channel with shows technically rating ‘zero’ making their weekly top ten (though in fairness, it just means shows attracting fewer than 1000 viewers) – is ‘My Channel’ That’s ‘My Channel’.

Admittedly, when we saw that, we did think “oh, it must be on cable only, or at the very least tucked away in the 800s on Sky’s EPG. But no, there it is on Sky channel 203, nestled between E4 HD and Universal Channel HD. And it’s not as if it’s a new pseudo-channel packed with nothing but teleshopping and telephone astrologists, either. Our extensive research shows that it’s been going since 2006, originally called Eat Cinema and targeted at filmgoers (though given the title, we’d have thought it was a food channel and avoided it), After spending the first few years after being rebranded to My Channel showing little but repeats of old (ugh) L!VE TV programmes, it eventually got bought up by our favourite Brazilian TV company Record Media Group, and seems to show mostly original and imported programming. Though sadly no British version of wonderously demented Brazilian variety show Tudo é Possível. Which is a huge mistake, as this clip shows:

Heed our words, My Channel. You’ll be in that top fifty before you know it.


And there you go. Our rundown – and possibly sole remaining original idea – over for another year. Curiosity sated. Bringing order to things. Letting us sleep. Aaah. We can finally relax.








Did we leave a teaspoon in the dessert spoon part of the cutlery drawer?





Ah, shit.


1 .:

Steve Williams said...

This is ace. There'll definitely be a change next year as Q closed down the other week, to be replaced by Heat TV.

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