List of most watched television broadcasts in the United Kingdom

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In the United Kingdom, viewing figures – the number of viewers or households watching a television programme, have been recorded by the Broadcasters' Audience Research Board (BARB) since 1981. Prior to the board's formation, figures were conducted by different means such as the BBC financing its own audience research, while the ITV companies sub-contracted theirs.

Most watched special events[edit]

The majority of special events attracting large audiences are often carried on more than one channel. The most watched programme of all time on a single channel is the 1973 wedding ceremony of The Princess Anne, shown only on BBC1.

Rank Event Viewers
(millions)
Date Network
1 1966 FIFA World Cup Final: England v West Germany 32.30[1] 30 July 1966 BBC One/ITV
2 Funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales 32.10[2] 6 September 1997 BBC One/ITV
3 Royal Family (documentary) 30.69[1] 21 June 1969 and 28 June 1969 BBC One/ITV
4 Apollo 13 Splashdown 28.60[3] 17 April 1970 BBC One/ITV
5 1970 FA Cup Final replay 28.49[3] 29 April 1970 BBC One/ITV
6 Wedding of Charles, Prince of Wales, and Lady Diana Spencer 28.40[4] 29 July 1981 BBC One/ITV
7 Wedding of Princess Anne and Mark Phillips 27.60[3] 14 November 1973 BBC One
8 2012 Summer Olympics closing ceremony 24.46[5] 12 August 2012 BBC One
9 2012 Summer Olympics opening ceremony 24.24[5] 27 July 2012 BBC One
10 Torvill and DeanOlympic Ice Dance Championship 23.95[6] 21 February 1994 BBC One

Notes:

Most watched programmes[edit]

The following is a list of most watched programmes, excluding sporting events and news coverage. The mid-1980s introduction of in-week repeat showings accounts for six of the top ten programmes. On this measure, the 1996 Christmas edition of Only Fools and Horses is the most watched non-repeated, non-documentary programme of all time in the United Kingdom. It is the third most watched programme of all time on a single channel, after the 2012 Summer Olympics closing ceremony and the wedding of Princess Anne and Mark Phillips in 1973 (see below).

Key

  •    repeat Numbers with this background and symbol are italicised to denote aggregated figure with repeat showing.
Rank Programme Synopsis Viewers
(millions)
Date Network Ref
1 EastEnders Den Watts (Leslie Grantham) serves wife Angie (Anita Dobson) with divorce papers. 30.15 repeat 25 December 1986 BBC One [12]
2 EastEnders The aftermath of Den's divorce to Angie. 28.00 repeat 1 January 1987 BBC One [13]
3 Coronation Street Hilda Ogden (Jean Alexander) leaves Weatherfield. 26.65 repeat 25 December 1987 ITV (Granada) [13]
4 Only Fools and Horses "Time on Our Hands" 24.35 29 December 1996 BBC One [14]
5 EastEnders Arthur (Bill Treacher) and Pauline Fowler (Wendy Richard) urge their son Mark (Todd Carty) to tell his sister Michelle (Susan Tully) that he is HIV positive. 24.30 repeat 2 January 1992 BBC One [2]
6 Royal Variety Performance 1965 Featuring Dame Shirley Bassey, Peter Cook, Dudley Moore, and more. 24.20 14 November 1965 ITV (ATV) [1]
7 EastEnders Angie suffers a Renal shutdown 24.15 repeat 7 January 1988 BBC One [15]
8 To the Manor Born Series 1 Finale 23.95 11 November 1979 BBC One [3]
9 Miss World 1967 Madeline Hartog-Bel (Miss Peru) wins. 23.76 19 November 1967 BBC One [1]
10 Eastenders The aftermath of Den's divorce to Angie 23.55 repeat 26 December 1985 BBC One [16]
11 Panorama Diana, Princess of Wales interview 22.78 20 November 1995 BBC One [17]
12 Royal Variety Performance 1975 Performers include Bruce Forsyth, Dad's Army and Vera Lynn. 22.66 16 November 1975 ITV (ATV) [3]
13 This Is Your Life Lord Mountbatten 22.22 27 April 1977 ITV (Thames) [3]
14 Sunday Night at the London Palladium Presented by Jimmy Tarbuck. 21.89 3 December 1967 ITV (ATV) [1]
15 The Benny Hill Show Cinema: The Vintage Years 21.67 24 March 1971 ITV (Thames) [3]
16 Dallas "Who Done It" – Kristin Shepard (Mary Crosby) is revealed to have shot J.R. Ewing (Larry Hagman) 21.60 22 November 1980 BBC One [4]
Coronation Street Ken (William Roache) and Deirdre Barlow (Anne Kirkbride) finalise their divorce, while Liz McDonald (Beverley Callard) returns from hospital following the death of her premature daughter 21.60 8 January 1992 ITV (Granada) [2]
18 Eurovision Song Contest 1973 Staged in Luxembourg - won by Anne-Marie David. The UK entry was Cliff Richard, who was a favourite. 21.56 7 April 1973 BBC One [3]
19 Steptoe and Son "The Lodger" – Albert looks for a Lodger 21.54 18 February 1964 BBC TV [1]
20 The Mike Yarwood Show "Mike Yarwood Christmas Show" 21.40 25 December 1977 BBC One [3]
Coronation Street Bet Lynch (Julie Goodyear) becomes landlady of the Rovers Return Inn. 21.40 2 January 1985 ITV (Granada) [16]

Most watched films[edit]

These are the most watched films by total number of viewers[18] (dates are when the films were broadcast, not necessarily when they were produced).

Rank Title Viewers
(millions)
Date Network
1 Live and Let Die 23.50 20 January 1980 ITV
2 Jaws 23.25 8 October 1981 ITV
3 The Spy Who Loved Me 22.90 28 March 1982 ITV
4 Diamonds Are Forever 22.15 15 March 1981 ITV
5 Crocodile Dundee 21.75 25 December 1989 BBC1

Most watched broadcasts by year[edit]

Year Programme Date Viewers
(millions)
Network
1970 Apollo 13 Splashdown 17 April 1970 28.60[3] BBC One / ITV
1971 Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier: Fight of the Century 8 March 1971 21.12[3] BBC One1
1972 Unknown
1973 Wedding of Princess Anne and Mark Phillips 14 November 1973 27.60[3] BBC One
1974 Love Thy Neighbour 7 April 1974 21.01[3] ITV (Thames)
1975 Royal Variety Performance 1975 16 November 1975 22.66[3] ITV (ATV)
1976 The Sweeney 8 November 1976 20.68[3] ITV
1977 This Is Your Life 27 April 1977 22.22[3] ITV (Thames)
1978 Sale of the Century 24 December 1978 21.15[3] ITV
1979 To the Manor Born 11 November 1979 23.95[3] BBC One
1980 Dallas 22 November 1980 21.60[4] BBC One
1981 Film: Jaws 8 October 1981 23.30[19] ITV
1982 Film: The Spy Who Loved Me 28 March 1982 22.90[20] ITV
1983 Coronation Street 23 February 1983 18.45[21] ITV
1984 Royal Variety Performance 1984 25 November 1984 20.55[22] BBC One
1985 Live Aid 13 July 1985 24.50[9] BBC One
1986 EastEnders 25 December 1986 30.15[12] BBC One
1987 EastEnders 1 January 1987 28.00[13] BBC One
1988 EastEnders 7 January 1988 24.15[15] BBC One
1989 Film: "Crocodile" Dundee 25 December 1989 21.77[23] BBC One
1990 Neighbours 26 February 1990 21.16[24] BBC One
1991 Coronation Street 25 November 1991 20.45[25] ITV
1992 Coronation Street 22 January 1992 20.45[26] ITV
1993 Coronation Street 22 March 1993 20.73[27] ITV
1994 Torvill and Dean – Olympic Ice Dance Championship 21 February 1994 23.95[6] BBC One
1995 Panorama Special: Princess Diana 20 November 1995 22.78[17] BBC One
1996 Only Fools and Horses 29 December 1996 24.35[14] BBC One
1997 Funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales 6 September 1997 19.29[28] BBC One
1998 1998 FIFA World Cup: England v Argentina 30 June 1998 23.78[29] ITV
1999 Coronation Street 7 March 1999 19.82[30] ITV
2000 Coronation Street 3 January 2000 18.96[31] ITV
2001 Only Fools and Horses 25 December 2001 21.35[32] BBC One
2002 Only Fools and Horses 25 December 2002 17.40[33] BBC One
2003 Coronation Street 24 February 2003 19.43[34] ITV
2004 UEFA Euro 2004: England v Portugal 24 June 2004 20.66[35] BBC One
2005 Coronation Street 21 February 2005 14.36[36] ITV
2006 2006 FIFA World Cup: England v Sweden 20 June 2006 18.46[37] ITV
2007 EastEnders 25 December 2007 14.38[38] BBC One
2008 A Matter of Loaf and Death 25 December 2008 16.15[39] BBC One
2009 Britain's Got Talent 30 May 2009 18.29[40] ITV
2010 The X Factor 12 December 2010 16.55[41] ITV
2011 Wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton 29 April 2011 13.59[42] BBC One2
2012 2012 Summer Olympics closing ceremony 12 August 2012 24.46[43] BBC One
2013 New Year's Eve Fireworks 31 December 2013 13.53[44] BBC One
2014 2014 FIFA World Cup Final: Germany v Argentina 13 July 2014 14.96[45] BBC One3
2015 The Great British Bake Off 7 October 2015 15.05[46] BBC One
2016 The Great British Bake Off 26 October 2016 15.90[47] BBC One
2017 Blue Planet II 29 October 2017 14.01[48] BBC One
2018 2018 FIFA World Cup: Croatia v England 11 July 2018 20.73[49] ITV
2019 Line of Duty 5 May 2019 12.69[50] BBC One

Notes

  • ^1 – Unverified sources state that this figure was higher[7], and that an audience of 26 million watched the Ali vs Foreman fight of 30 October 1974[8]. However these figures are not corroborated by the BFI.
  • ^2 – The Royal Wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton (29 April 2011) "attracted a consolidated average audience of 26.0 [million] viewers across the ceremony from 11:00 am to 12:10 pm. This is an aggregated audience across 10 BARB reported channels that followed the events live."[51] The highest figures for individual channels of these were 13.59 million on BBC One, followed by 4.02 million watching on ITV.
  • ^3 – The 2014 FIFA World Cup Final was broadcast by both BBC One and ITV. The highest figures were 14.96 million on BBC One, followed by 2.34 million on ITV.

References[edit]

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