An informitv analysis of the most viewed programmes on Christmas Day in the United Kingdom shows that traditional television audiences are slowly diminishing, despite a boost in viewers for the first message from the King. With Knives Out, Netflix produced the fifth most viewed programme on television, measured over the week, but it would have been the most popular single programme over the festive period.

The message from King was the most watched programme on a single channel on Christmas Day, with a consolidated audience of 9.46 million viewers on BBC One over the seven days from transmission. Together with broadcasts on other channels, it was watched by a total of 10.6 million, making it the most popular Christmas Day broadcast by a monarch in two decades.

That marked the largest audience for a programme on a single channel on Christmas Day since 2019, when 17.92 million people watched an episode of the comedy drama Gavin and Stacey.

UK Christmas Day Viewing 2010-2022. Source: BARB / informitv.

The next most popular programme on Christmas Day 2022 was Call the Midwife. With 7.81 million viewers, it was marginally down on the 7.83 million the previous year, from 8.19 million the year before that, significantly down on its first outing on Christmas Day in 2012, when it was watched by 10.18 million and the most viewed programme achieved 11.69 million.

UK Christmas Day Audience 2012-2022. Source: BARB / informitv.

Meanwhile, the movie Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery was watched by 6.74 million people, over seven days from its online premiere on 23 December 2022, according to figures from the audience measurement organisation BARB. That only includes viewing on a television set.

Named after a song by the Beatles which refers to “looking through a glass onion”, a type of bottle, the movie was a standalone sequel to the 2019 film Knives Out, starring Daniel Craig. Netflix outbid Amazon and Apple at an auction to acquire the rights to the film and another sequel for $469 million.

It was the first time that Netflix recorded a television audience in the top 10 in the United Kingdom. It was the only Netflix show in the top 50 programmes of the week, which includes programmes down to just over 3 million viewers.

However, the following week, the Netflix movie was still the eighth most popular programme of the week, with a further 5.21 million viewers.

This suggests that a total of almost 12 million individuals watched the Netflix movie over the two weeks, which would make it the most popular programme on television over the period.

The programme welcoming the New Year on BBC One, starting at a minute to midnight and including coverage of the fireworks over London, had an audience of 11.22 million.

It was the first year that BARB has published ratings for Netflix, using a similar methodology to that used for television programmes.

The first Netflix show to make it into top 50 was the comedy horror series Wednesday, which ranked 37 and 49 in two weeks in November.

Before Knives Out, the highest-ranking Netflix show was Harry & Meghan, the documentary about the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, with episode one ranking at number 17 with 4.5 million viewers.

The BARB figures confirm that the most watched programme in the United Kingdom in 2022 on a single channel was the coverage on ITV of the World Cup match between England and France on 10 December, watched by an average audience of 16.10 million.

The biggest combined television audience was the 26.2 million who watched the funeral service for the Queen on 19 September, which was shown on more than 50 channels in the United Kingdom.

That was one of the largest television audiences in the United Kingdom since comparable records began in 1981.

While broadcasters still account for most television viewing, the example of Knives Out shows that Netflix can over time deliver an audience that beats them over the peak viewing period, and that there is still an appetite for a movie over Christmas, albeit with a budget that blows traditional television fare out of the water.