The arrival of Peter Capaldi in Doctor Who secured Christmas Day’s highest television viewing figure, with more than ten million switching on BBC1 for the Scottish actor’s first appearance as the Time Lord.
While 8.3 million watched Doctor Who from start to finish, they were joined in the last few minutes by an extra two million who switched on just to see Matt Smith regenerate into Capaldi.
In a surprising twist, the top-rated programme on Christmas Day was the sitcom Mrs Brown’s Boys whose average audience of 9.4 million viewers knocked EastEnders from the soap’s traditional spot at the top of the festive tree.
To add insult to injury, the regulars of Albert Square were also trumped by Coronation Street, which secured 8.3 million viewers, 500,000 more than its rival on BBC1. It was the first time in more than a decade that Coronation Street was the most popular soap on Christmas Day.
In the battle of the bubbles, BBC1 had laden the storyline not with festive cheer but violence and gloom. EastEnders had packed this year’s show with incident, including the arrest of Janine Butcher for murder and the arrival of new Queen Vic landlord Mick Carter – played by Danny Dyer. Yet the show lost 1.6 million viewers compared with last year’s performance.
However, it was Coronation Street which had a little more goodwill that tied with Doctor Who on 8.3 million viewers, to claim joint second spot in the viewing league. The Doctor Who special, which saw the Doctor age 300 years and included a brief return for Karen Gillan as Amy Pond, was up 700,000 viewers on last year.
The BBC took six of the top ten places, but the Queen’s Christmas broadcast missed out at the top end of the list. BBC1’s audience for the annual address traditionally figures in the upper ten but this year’s 5.7 million meant it failed to figure in the top shows. However, with the 2.1 million who watched on ITV, the broadcast managed a combined 7.8 million.
BBC News lost its place in this year’s top ten, replaced by ITV News. Yesterday, Charlotte Moore, BBC1 controller, said: “Nothing brings the country together at Christmas quite like BBC1. Huge audiences shared the schedule on the nation’s favourite channel, winning four out of the top five most popular shows. Mrs Brown’s Boys took the top spot with 9.4 million viewers, and the arrival of Peter Capaldi created the biggest peak audience at 10.2 million in Doctor Who.”
However, the audience for traditional TV channels is under attack from TV services such as Netflix and Blinkbox which allow viewers to watch what they like, when they like. Yesterday, Tesco, which owns Blinkbox, released research which showed almost half of British adults planned to watch more on-demand TV at Christmas in a bid to escape repetitive TV schedules. The survey of 2,000 adults by OnePoll found that Boxing Day was the most popular day of the festive period to watch movies and TV.
Michael Comish, co-founder of Blinkbox, said the battle for audiences was heating up and traditional channels were losing ground to new entertainment hubs. He said: “Being able to enjoy the latest and greatest movies and TV shows on multiple devices on your own terms really spells the end of the TV turkey at Christmas. We have seen the usage of tablets and games consoles for buying and watching movies and TV surge in 2013.”
He expected the peak to be around Boxing Day with momentum continuing into the weekend. “The great news is that Brits aren’t watching less TV. They are enjoying better content on a variety of screens,” he said.