The most watched television programme in the United Kingdom on Christmas Day was Call the Midwife on BBC One, with 9.6 million viewers, including those viewing over the next seven days. That was slightly up on the two previous years, although it is a long way off the historic highs of Christmas Day viewing.
According to overnight ratings from BARB, 7.6 million watched the annual address from The Queen across BBC, ITV and Sky channels, with 6.8 million watching Mrs Brown’s Boys on BBC One, followed by audiences of 6.5 million and 6.3 million for Strictly Come Dancing and Call the Midwife respectively.
The consolidated figures, which take into account viewing within seven days, show that Call the Midwife was the most popular programme, watched by a total of 9.6 million viewers.
BBC One broadcast seven of the top 10 shows on Christmas Day 2017. Mrs Brown’s Boys was watched by 9.0 million, Strictly Come Dancing by 8.3 million, EastEnders by 8.1 million and Doctor Who by 7.9 million.
Coronation Street on ITV ranked sixth, with 7.0 million viewers. Victoria and Emmerdale were also in the top 10, with 5.4 million and 5.1 million respectively.
The Great Christmas Bake Off achieved the largest Christmas Day audience on Channel 4 for more than 15 years, in terms of rating and share, with 4.8 million people watching, but not enough to make the top 10 programmes. That was fewer than for the final of the last series, which was watched by 7.7 million, compared to 15.9 million that watched the final the previous year on BBC One.
The consolidated figures for Call the Midwife were up 400,000 on the previous year, when the same programme topped the ratings, although once again there were no programmes watched by more than 10 million viewers.
The last year that saw an audience of over 10 million on Christmas Day was 2013, when EastEnders attracted a total of 12.61 million viewers, including repeats.
It does not seem so long ago that Only Fools & Horses was seen by over 20 million viewers, with 21.4 million watching on Christmas Day 2001.
30.2 million watched EastEnders in 1986, based on figures aggregated over two episodes on 25 and 28 December.
Commentators have suggested the rise of online video services like Netflix and Amazon are responsible for the apparent decline in audiences for Christmas Day programmes.
The reality is that with more options available, from more services, across more screens, people are less likely to be satisfied by a fixed menu of viewing designed to appeal to and appease an entire family.
Nevertheless, it is remarkable that on Christmas Day 6.3 million people, more than one in ten people in the country, should choose to watch a critically acclaimed period drama about a group of midwives and nuns. It is also notable that a further 3.3 million watched the programme within seven days of broadcast, almost half as many again as watched in at the time of transmission.