BBC wins seasonal ratings battle

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The Independent Online

Chief Reporter

The BBC last night claimed victory in the Christmas Day ratings war, squeezing ITV out of all but one of the top 10 viewing positions.

An audience of 16.8 million for One Foot in the Grave set a standard which saw BBC1 and BBC2 attract two-thirds of all viewers throughout the day. Only one ITV programme made the top 10, Christmas in Coronation Street, which reached sixth place with 11.8 million.

Ahead of it was an array of BBC programmes. Even where BBC1 and ITV showed the same programme - the Queen's speech - the BBC came out on top, attracting 11 million viewers (the eighth-highest audience) compared with ITV's 2.7 million.

Second in the ratings came the second of a two-part EastEnders episode, with 16.1 million, and third came Keeping Up Appearances with 16 million.

The first part of the EastEnders special came fourth, with 14.3 million; fifth was the Steven Spielberg film, Hook, with 12.1 million; seventh was Indecent Proposal, with 11.3 million; ninth was Noel's Christmas Present, with 10.1 million; and, in joint 10th position, with 9.3 million viewers each, came Auntie's Brand New Bloomers and Only Fools and Horses.

A BBC insider said executives were delighted with the results, given ITV's larger budget for blockbuster movies. "Yet again, viewers have shown that the Beeb is their ideal Christmas companion," she said.

The figures relied upon by the BBC are preliminary raw data assessments put together by the Broadcasters Audience Research Board (Barb) and do not take account of video recordings or repeats.

ITV was not in a strong position to argue with the figures. However, Marcus Plantin, the ITV network director, said he was neither surprised nor dismayed by them, pointing to the network's own victory on Christmas Eve. ITV took a 37 per cent share of the available peak-time audience, compared with 30 per cent for the BBC.

The top evening show on Christmas Eve was You've Been Framed, which attracted 10.5 million viewers. According to Mr Plantin, it was the first time in years that ITV had beaten the BBC on Christmas Eve.

"The BBC always keeps its top programming for the Christmas period and last year BBC1 claimed 53 per cent of the audience on Christmas Eve."

"I'm delighted that we've done more than just given them a run for their money this year. So far, the honours are shared over the first two days of Christmas. It's 1-1"

Neither broadcaster would say how much they had spent on Christmas Day scheduling.