BBC domination of the schedules had become almost a Christmas tradition. EastEnders, Men Behaving Badly or, in the old days, Morecambe and Wise were regarded by BBC executives as Christmas Exocets to blast commercial television out of the water.
But this year was different. ITV drew 46 per cent of viewers between six o'clock and 10.30, while the BBC managed only 39.7 per cent.
ITV's Coronation Street drew the highest ratings with 14.7 million viewers, while the BBC's rival soap EastEnders, which made second last year, dropped to sixth place with 11.2 million.
But ITV's real success was put down to the quiz show Who Wants to be a Millionaire. The 8.30pm edition, in third position, drew 12 million while the 10.30pm show came in tenth and attracted 11 million. Touch of Frost, the drama with David Jason and the soap Emmerdale came joint seventh with 11.1 million viewers. Both programmes did well for ITV, which in other years has managed to get only Coronation Street into the top ten.
The BBC, however, still won the ratings war over the day as a whole, achieving 40.7 per cent of the audience, down 2 percentage points from last year, while ITV's share stood at 33.7 per cent, up 3 points.
The BBC's big drama David Copperfield did not make the top ten, with only 7.8 million viewers. But the BBC won the night on comedy - The Vicar of Dibley, starring Dawn French, came in second with 12.4 million, and, unlike ITV, the BBC drew a mass audience to news; 11.7 million watched the 5.40pm bulletin, which ranked fifth.Reuse content