The annual message from The Queen was the most watched programme in the United Kingdom on Christmas Day 2021, although audience sizes for other programmes were generally down. Over the year, there were only 10 weeks in which the largest audience exceeded 10 million. The Euro football championship final delivered huge numbers of viewers, as did some dramas, but they were the exception rather than the norm.
The Queen was viewed by 8.23 million on the BBC. That was more than the 7.29 million that watched the previous year.
The drama Call the Midwife on the BBC was viewed by 7.84 million, down from 8.19 million the year before, when it was the most watched programme of Christmas Day.
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 7.34 million, which was above the 6.77 million the previous year. Michael McIntyre’s The Wheel was seen by 5.53 million and Blankety Blank by 4.99 million, down on the 6.35 million the year before.
The Christmas Day episode of the serial drama EastEnders was watched by 4.59 million, behind Coronation Street on ITV with 5.14 million, compared to 6.61 million the previous year, while Emmerdale was watched by 4.34 million, down from 4.91 million.
BBC programmes accounted for 7 out of 10 of the most viewed programmes on Christmas Day, while Channel 4 had the tenth most popular programme with The Great British Bake Off: Festive Special watched by 3.72 million.
These figures are for 7-day viewing, so include viewing of recordings and online viewing within a week.
The most popular programme of the day was watched by slightly more than the previous year, but the general trend has seen a decline in audiences over the last decade. The Gavin and Stacey special on Christmas Day 2019 was an exception, with 17.92 million viewers.
Serial dramas have seen a progressive decline in their audiences. On Christmas Day 2009 EastEnders was watched by 11.67 million. At its peak in 1986 it was watched by a record 30.15 million viewers, aggregated over a double edition on December 25 and 28.
The most viewed single programme in the United Kingdom in 2021 was the UEFA European Football Championship on ITV on 8 July with 18.41 million. The final between England and Italy on 11 July was shared between the BBC and ITV and the average audience for the game itself was 29.85 million. The tournament accounted for five of the top ten most watched programmes of the year.
Other than football, the second most viewed programme was the finale of Line of Duty on BBC 1 with 15.71 million. All seven episodes of the drama were in the top 20 programmes of the year.
Strictly Come Dancing on the BBC had a series of shows with over 10 million viewers through the Autumn, peaking with the final, watched by 12.18 million. Its run at the top was interrupted only by an episode of I’m a Celebrity on ITV, which was seen by 11.04 million.
Another notable drama success for the BBC was Vigil, which peaked at 10.37 million, making it the most successful new drama of the year, at least on broadcast television in the United Kingdom.
The Oprah with Meghan and Harry interview on ITV in March was watched by 14.82 million.
The announcement of another lockdown by the Prime Minister on 4 January 2021 was watched by 14.1 million.
An informitv analysis of BARB data shows that the average audience for the most viewed programme in a week was just over 10 million, although there were only 10 weeks in the year with an audience for a single programme of over 10 million.