BBC Telecast of 'Doctor Who' Christmas Special Delivers 8.29 Million UK Viewers, 'Downton Abbey' 7.01 Million

Categories: 1-Featured,UK TV Ratings

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December 26th, 2013

Doctor Who CHristmas 2013

Unlike the United States, where non-sports television takes Christmas off, the UK features high profile original programs on December 25. This year's  Doctor Who Christmas special, The Time of the Doctor, featuring Matt Smith's final appearance as the doctor, was the second highest rated program in England on Christmas Day. The special, which aired on BBC, garnered 8.29 million UK viewers,  up from 7.59 million for last year's Christmas special. We will post the ratings for the BBC America United States telecast of the program as soon as they are available.

The Downton Abbey Christmas special garnered 7.01 million viewers on ITV. It won't be telecast in the United States for months; the fourth season premieres January 5 on PBS.

The highest rated Christmas program in England was an episode of the comedy Mrs. Brown's Boys which scored 9.4 million viewers.


  • Jon19190

    So if DW was 2nd, what came top of the ratings?

  • Sara Bibel

    I just added that info. It was an episode of the sit-com Mrs. Brown’s Boys. The British press describes the victory as “surprising”.

  • John A

    Go Mrs Brown’s Boys. That seems low for overhyped Downton Abbey. I expected higher for Doctor Who.

  • James

    Mrs. Brown’s Boys has been massively successful in the UK. The critics love to make fun of it, but the last series (in January) averaged over 9 million.

    Last Christmas, the 2 specials got 11.7m and 10.7m respectively (shown on Christmas Eve and December 26th). This Christmas’ special will probably round up to 11 million.

  • JJA

    Wow!! Consider the numbers for a second.

    The UK has a population of 60 million, and 8 million were watching Dr. Who. About 25 million people were watching the top 3 shows, which is about 40% the country’s population.

    A typical episode of Scandal here in the US gets 9 million viewers, and we have a population of 300 million.

    So, a hit TV series is more a cultural phenomenon in the UK, where as in the USA it’s just a hit TV series. Interesting.

  • Tyler

    This is in no way relevent to the numbers AND I’m not looking to “troll” but I have to say that last nights Doctor Who was downright AWFUL! Boring.

    I’d be intersted in hearing the min to min ratings at at the 30 minute mark.
    Nearly painful to watch. The most dragged out no story episode I’ve ever seen in the history of all BBC WHO. Wonder how it did on BBC Am?

  • John A

    Dr Who had over 10 mil tuning in to the last 10 mins.

  • UK watcher

    @ JJA

    It’s because there are far more networks (including cable) on US television compared to UK. England is pretty much only about BBC and ITV. They both have several channels. Mrs Browns Boys was on at BBC1 while BBC2 had Doctor Who on. It’s also the only reason why Simon Cowell (I hate him) is succesful with his X Factor although the numbers are way down each year.

  • UK watcher

    Also I don’t think they were all on at the same time, but I could be wrong.

  • craiguk

    As well as the cultural difference around Christmas time you have to remember that nighttime soaps dominate the TV landscape in the UK with Eastenders and Coronation Street running multiple episodes a week with regular figures around 8m viewers IIRC (pls update if it’s lower these days), these shows run all year with no breaks and no repeats out of sequence.

    I’ve never understood why one of the US networks don’t make a go of a night time soap, say once a week to start (Friday would seem obvious) and try to build a franchise with a long term view…..could be a massive rating hit at minimal cost (the pay of a Eastenders/Corrie actor is less then $200k PER YEAR).

  • UKTVFan

    UK watcher, both Doctor Who and Mrs. Brown’s Boys aired on BBC1 last night (Doctor Who at 7:30pm, Mrs. Brown’s Boys at 9:30pm after Eastenders).

  • Lisa

    I didn’t enjoy the Doctor Who episode, but it did well. I hope I like the Twelfth Doctor much more than I did the Eleventh.

  • redwinter

    The post is confusing due to the mixed references to ratings/rankings in England and ratings/rankings in the UK.

  • CKO


    Desperate Housewives, The O.C., Revenge, Ugly Betty, Grey’s Anatomy, Devious Maids, Brothers and Sisters, Parenthood, Gossip Girl, 90210 all fall in the prime-time soap opera genre and they obviously had varying success, but a more traditional soap opera would never work. Daytime soap operas have struggled to find an audience and there’s no reason to think it would be any different during prime-time – as you’ve pointed out – culturally, American audiences are different to UK audiences and, even in the UK, soap opera viewership is decreasing. Also, a US studio could never get away with paying their actors the same rates as UK actors. Hollywood has a completely different economy.

  • Brekkie

    Full ratings for the two main channels:

    BBC One
    15:00 – The Queen: 5.7m (36.2%)
    15:10 – BBC News / Toy Story 3: 6.3m (38.8%)
    17:00 – Strictly Come Dancing: 7.3m (35.4%) (Dancing with the Stars)
    18:15 – Call the Midwife: 7.1m (30.1%)
    19:30 – Doctor Who: 8.3m (30.7%)
    20:30 – EastEnders: 7.8m (29.0%)
    21:30 – Mrs Brown’s Boys: 9.4m (35.5%)
    22:05 – Michael McIntyre’s Showtime: 4.8m (22.8%)

    ITV (exc +1)
    15:00 – HM The Queen: 1.8m (11.7%)
    15:10 – ITV News & Weather / Tangled: 2.0m (12.4%)
    17:15 – Paul O’Grady: For the Love of Dogs: 3.9m (18.5%)
    18:15 – Emmerdale: 5.5m (23.6%)
    19:15 – ITV News & Weather: 5.7m (23.5%)
    19:30 – Coronation Street: 7.9m (29.3%)
    20:30 – Downton Abbey: 6.6m (25.4%)
    22:30 – ITV News & Weather: 4.6m (22.6%)
    22:45 – Love Actually: 1.5m (13.3%)

    The line up from 5pm-10pm on BBC1 essentially had new episodes of the BBC’s 5 highest rated shows. ITV had their two big soaps and Downton Abbey, their biggest drama series. The media and some bookies may have been surprised by Mrs Brown’s Boys winning the night but anyone who observed ratings wasn’t – it was the top show of the entire week last Christmas, so victory was always likely. The bookies who priced it at 80/1 have learnt the hardway.

  • Lisa

    Regarding nighttime soaps in the US, several years there was a network that tried airing them five nights a week. The soaps flopped, and the network lost a ton of money. Plus nighttime soaps that become hits become expensive to produce since the actors, producers, etc. want more money as the shows grow more popular. And they sure wouldn’t want to do multiple episodes a week. That’s too much work. The TV model that works in the UK doesn’t necessarily work in the US at all. Besides, we have daytime soaps that are perfectly good.

  • j

    A prime time soap five times a week would not work in the states.East Enders Emmerdale Corrie are so good.Soaps in the states have enough trouble as it is finding viewers in daytime.

  • TLM

    Hate to be a bother but it’s “Britain” not “England”, unless those ratings exclude all viewers in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

  • Lesley

    In fact there are about 900 channels available in UK,if you count all the cable channels. Its just that Broadcast TV is so good with all the best dramas that most people dont bother much with all the cable channels.They just watch broadcast TV,no need to pay more for cable unless you want sport or films. Its the opposite in America where cable has the best dramas.

    And its the audience percentage share that registers more significance. If a show gets 30% of the audience share for its slot on any night,that is great numbers

    There are regional differences,but not with major dramas like Dr Who. Everyone gets that at the same time.

  • craiguk

    To understand the UK broadcast space you have to think of it differently then the US.

    In the UK there is Freeview/Freesat (I’ve merged for simplicity) which has about 35 channels and is available totally free of charge (excluding licence fee) to 97% (ish) of the country.

    These channels deliver the main UK networks BBC/ITV/Channel4/Five and their associated other offerings.. (BBC2/3/4, ITV2/3/4, C4/M4/E4/Film4, FiveLater.Five*) there is then a smattering of repeat channels (Dave,Drama et al) and a few Movie Channels.

    For many people this is sufficient as it gives a ‘good enough’ platform for their entertainment needs.

    You then have Sky (Murdoch owned) with about 10m subscribers and Virgin Cable with about 2m (IIRC) and British Telecom with about 3m subscribers that provide the up to the 900 other channels available….in reality people that subscribe to these services mostly do it to access live sports events and the other channels are almost secondary.

    Given the way the delivery of TV services is changing both here and in the US, with phones, tablets, netflix, hulu and all the unofficial/illegal delivery services I’d personally hate to be in the TV business.

    As to the cost of actors for soaps the actors in the UK are not exclusively tied to their show and many use it as a bread and butter revenue stream that allows them to generate other work, I’m sure there are plenty of actors in the States who would love the chance to earn $200k per year if it gets them exposure…….

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