Leader: BBC declares victory, but festive TV is under threat

NOT even fisticuffs in the drawing room, a death sentence and the longest-awaited marriage proposal of the year was enough to secure the ITV drama Downton Abbey victory in the Christmas TV wars.

The BBC soap EastEnders came comfortably top with an average viewing audience of 9.9 million against 8.1 million for Downton. Coronation Street beat the upmarket drama into third place with an audience of 9.3 million.

BBC chiefs were quick to declare victory, pointing to the pulling power of EastEnders, Dr Who, Strictly Come Dancing and Absolutely Fabulous. Crowed BBC1 Controller Danny Cohen: “We wanted to provide something for everyone”.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Well, not quite. This was a group of programmes appealing to one particular type of audience rather than a heterogeneous group. And the ratings figures do not allow for the millions who fell asleep within five minutes of the opening, or the time spent making turkey sandwiches and brewing fresh tea. Many millions of sets may have been tuned to a particular channel: not quite the same as “viewing” – still less “watching”. Meanwhile, alternative attractions such as iPads, iPhones and computer games continue to nibble away at the soft underbelly of Christmas TV – and underbellies don’t come much softer.