BBC continues to trounce ITV in festive television ratings battle

On Saturday night a news bulletin was ITV1's most-watched programme - with several primetime programmes failing to gain audiences of 2 million

Christmas Day viewing figures might have seen EastEnders trounce Coronation Street for the fourth year in a row. But ITV1 has suffered a further blow in the ratings battle with the BBC this weekend when its Saturday night news bulletin proved its most popular programme of the evening.

ITV1 gained just 8 per cent of the primetime Saturday night audience with new holiday game show Dale’s Great Getaway achieving an audience of fewer than 1.5 million and a repeat of romantic comedy Love Actually gleaning just 1.6 million viewers.

BBC One and BBC Two combined achieved a 20 per cent audience share on Saturday night with the broadcaster's most popular programme Superstars accruing nearly 6 million viewers.

Comparatively ITV’s top-rated show was the news and weather with around 2.5 million, followed by funny clip show I Love You’ve Been Framed by 2.4 million.

An ITV1 documentary celebrating 30 years of the channel’s children’s programming CITV was beaten by a repeat of Dad’s Army on BBC2 at 6.45pm.

These disappointing figures for ITV1 come in the wake of the BBC’s bullish ratings performance throughout the festive viewing season.

On Christmas Day EastEnders (BBC1) gained 9.4 million viewers to ITV1 soap Coronation Street’s 8.6 million.

Other popular shows included Strictly Come Dancing (BBC1, 7.8 million), The Royle Family (BBC1, 7.7 million) and the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC1, 7.6 million).

Even a Christmas special of Julian Fellowes’ hugely popular period drama Downton Abbey failed to take the cake for ITV1, gaining equal 7.3 million viewing figures with BBC1 dramatisation of the diaries of Jennifer Worth Call The Midwife.

With Coronation Street and Downton Abbey the only other ITV1 show to make the top ten on Christmas Day was soap opera Emmerdale which gained an audience of 6 million.

Head-to-head scheduling meant that more people watched Doctor Who live than Emmerdale; whileThe Royle Family was more popular than Downton Abbey; and ITV triumphed with Coronation Street over Call The Midwife.

On Boxing Day BBC1’s sitcom Miranda was watched by ten million compared to the 3 million who tuned into Stephen Fry heist drama Doors Open on ITV.

However, ITV's viewing figures for its Boxing Day Emmerdale episode were up year-on-year by 1.2 million.

Also, like this year 2011's Christmas day top ten included three programmes from ITV1, compared to two programmes from the channel in 2008 and just one show in the top ten in 2009.

ITV declined to comment.

Although last year Downton Abbey came a disappointing fourth in the list of Christmas Day’s most-watched (behind EastEnders, Coronation Street and Doctor Who) another 3.5 million people recorded it to watch later, making it the most-watched programme of the festive period.

ITV might well expect the same pattern to emerge this year after 1.9 million watched the Downton Christmas special afternoon repeat on 27 December. Figures for the numbers who recorded the show to watch later will be released in January.

After months of rumours ITV announced on Boxing Day that Downton Abbey actor Dan Stevens, who plays Matthew Crawley, is to leave the show.

ITV said: “We wish him every success for the future. Michelle Dockery will be returning to her role as Lady Mary in series four which begins production in February… Producers decided Matthew and Mary could not simply be estranged or parted, resulting in his untimely and tragic death at the end of the Christmas episode.”

Most-watched on Christmas Day

1 .EastEnders, BBC1 - 9.4m

2. Coronation Street, ITV1 - 8.6m

3. Strictly Come Dancing, BBC1 - 7.8m

4. The Royle Family, BBC1 - 7.7m

5. Dr Who, BBC1 - 7.6m

6= Downton Abbey, ITV1 - 7.3m

6= Call The Midwife, BBC1 7.3m

8. The Queen, BBC1 - 6.3m

9. Emmerdale, ITV1 - 6.2m

10. BBC News, BBC1 - 6.1m

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