Documentary Business

Peter Hamilton Consultants, Inc

UK Documentary & Lifestyle Broadcast Ratings. The Top 100 for 1H 2019. Notorious British Crime Delivers

It’s always a pleasure to share the UK’s highest-rated documentary and unscripted programs.

Here is my ratings snapshot for 1H 2019.

  • #1-50 are followed by my brief Takeaways.
  • Then #51-100.

Why UK Matters!

  • The UK is the #2 English-speaking television market.
  • It enjoys a well-funded Factual sector that has been a creative innovator for generations.
  • The data is relevant beyond the UK because many of my readers are seeking international co-pro’s, pre-buys and format licenses.
  • They are responding to the disruptive rise of SVOD, Netflix and other online viewing platforms.
  • For the broadcasters, this dramatic shift translates into slowly shrinking audiences, budgets and commissioning pipelines.

The UK Documentary & Hobbies Top 100
Jan 1 – June 30, 2019

  • The ‘000 P4+’ column refers to viewers 4 years and older in thousands.
  • Its an important measure of audience scale, but not necessarily of value because the commercial channels target specific demo’s.
  • Share refers to the program’s share of television sets in use at that time.
  • The data refers to highest single episode in a series.
ChannelProgramme Title‘000 P4+ShareSub Genre
1BBC 1Countryfile6,56433.5Natural History & Nature
2ITVBradley Walsh & Son: Breaking Dad6,44728.5Factual Entertainment
3BBC 1Antiques Roadshow6,42332.7Hobbies/Leisure – General
4BBC 1Blue Planet Live5,74524.3Natural History & Nature
5BBC 1Countryfile Winter Special5,66527.7Natural History & Nature
6Channel 4The Great Celebrity Bake Off5,18321.0Factual Entertainment
7ITVHarry’s Heroes: The Full English5,14524.0Pursuits – Lifestyle – Personal
8BBC 1Masterchef5,01522.5Cookery
9BBC 1The Murder Of Jill Dando4,90121.4Crime/Real Life
10Channel 4Leaving Neverland: Michael Jackson & Me4,67220.8Celebrity / (Crime?)
11ITV63 Up4,65419.5Human Interest
12BBC 1Earth From Space4,49417.8Natural History & Nature
13BBC 1Celebrity Apprentice For Comic Relief4,48219.1Factual Entertainment
14ITVFred & Rose West The Real Story4,42118.7Crime/Real Life
15ITVLong Lost Family: Born Without Trace4,32120.1Human Interest
16BBC 1DIY SOS: The Big Build4,17219.2Pursuits – Lifestyle – Home
17BBC 1Kilimanjaro: The Bigger Red Nose Climb4,16615.9Factual Entertainment
18ITVLong Lost Family4,15918.1Human Interest
19BBC 2Top Gear4,13318.1Pursuits – Automotive
20ITVMartin Clunes: Islands Of America4,05716.1Travel
21ITVBritain’s Busiest Airport – Heathrow4,04122.8Fly on the Wall
22Channel 4Gogglebox4,03418.6Human Interest
23Channel 4Celebrity Gogglebox3,98519.1Factual Entertainment
24ITVThe All New Monty: Who Bares Wins3,98519.7Factual Entertainment
25BBC 1Ambulance3,96418.5Human Interest
26Channel 4The Great New Year’s Bake Off3,89114.2Factual Entertainment
27BBC 1The Real Marigold On Tour3,84015.8Human Interest
28ITVWhat The Durrells Did Next3,82121.3Factual Entertainment
29BBC 1Eat Well For Less?3,73317.8Cookery
30ITVThe All New Monty Ladies Night: Who Bare3,70117.7Factual Entertainment
31BBC 2The Great British Sewing Bee3,69216.2Hobbies/Leisure – General
32BBC 1The Chelsea Flower Show3,68521.1Gardening
33ITVHatton Garden: The Inside Story3,65817.3Crime/Real Life
34BBC 1Jack The Ripper – The Case Reopened3,63017.1Crime/Real Life
35ITVPsychopath With Piers Morgan3,48214.6Crime/Real Life
36Channel 4SAS: Who Dares Wins3,47813.1Factual Entertainment
37ITVThe Cruise: Shanghai To Sydney3,47016.3Fly on the Wall
38BBC 1Blue Planet II: Oceans Of Wonder3,39217.0Natural History & Nature
39ITVHard To Please3,34516.1Factual Entertainment
40ITVThe Junk Food Experiment3,31516.3Science/Medical
41BBC 2Race Across The World3,22614.0Factual Entertainment
42ITVCall The Cleaners3,16317.0Fly on the Wall
43ITVJill Dando – The 20 Year Mystery3,12615.0Crime/Real Life
44ITVBritain’s Busiest Motorway3,12014.4Fly on the Wall
45ITVBritain’s Top 100 Dogs Live: 20193,11913.7Natural History & Nature
46Channel 424 Hours In Police Custody3,09213.5Crime/Real Life
47ITVVictoria’s Palace3,08214.8History
48ITVSave Money: Good Diet3,07417.1Human Interest
49ITVHer Majesty’s Cavalry3,06615.4Fly on the Wall
50ITVSave Money: Lose Weight2,99917.1Human Interest


Crime Pays

  • Great British crimes and criminality are revisited in the Top 50: the Hatton Garden heist, The Murder Of Jill Dando, Fred & Rose West, and even Jack The Ripper.
  • Crime and punishment are covered in Psychopaths (35) and Custody / Reality  (46)
  • Celebrity meets criminal behavior in a U.S. import Leaving Neverland: Michael Jackson & Me (10).
  • There’s lot’s more True Crime in the 51-100 list below, beginning with Code Blue: Murder (51) and Serial Killer confessions (52).

Royals Off The Calendar

  • The Windsors have dominated the Top 100 list for years with their births, weddings, birthdays, anniversaries and funerals.
  • But not in 1H19.
  • Meghan’s baby doesn’t rank until #53.
  • Victoria’s Palace is #47, though perhaps this is Victoria Beckham?
  • Cantering in at #49 is Her Majesty’s Cavalry.

Natural History Live

  • Blue Planet Live with David Attenborough scored at #4 with 5.7 million viewers.
  • Channels will rely increasingly on big LIVE events to compete with the vast entertainment inventories of the streamers like Netflix and soon Disney (with Nat Geo).
  • The channels need to crack LIVE formats in genres like Natural History to complement their dominance in Sports.
    • For example, A&E enjoys an international hit with Live PD.
    • And we covered  SafariLIVE, a unique 24×7 operation (Nat Geo Wild U.S.) that engages social media enthusiasts as well as scheduled audiences.
  • It was otherwise a meagre Top 50 half-year for the Wildlife genre, even for popular Pets programs: Britain’s Top 100 Dogs Live is #45. (Note LIVE!).

Celebrity / Pop Culture

  • Celebrity hosted documentaries and fundraisers did well, from Harry’s Heroes, Climbing Kilimanjaro, Celebrity Apprentice to Real Monty spinoffs, and more.

Franchises / Formats

  • I often congratulate the BBC’s lower-cost nostalgic franchises Countryfile and Antiques Roadshow for powerhouse scores, decade after decade.
  • Baking, lost families and other formats continue to thrive, though I’m waiting and waiting for a new British format as fresh as Gogglebox was years ago.
  • Note also that Channel 5 dropped out of the Top 100, with Ben Fogle: New Lives In The Wild at #131.

The Masterpiece

  • 63 Up (#11) is the latest visit to Seven Up (1964), Michael Apted’s revelation of childhood and of how children think about class and society, and of whether our destiny is determined by that tender age.
  • I was first taken in by Seven Up during a teacher training workshop at Erskine House in Lorne, steps off the beach where I had learned to surf and play beach cricket during my own childhood summers.
  • Seven Up has been on my Top 10 Documentary list ever since, and I was just thinking that its on my own Top 10 of all great British creative works of my lifetime.
  • It makes me happy to see that the UK audience in its 2.7 millions still loves to follow the Seven Up children as they approach old age.

The UK Documentary & Hobbies Top 100
Jan 1 – June 30, 2019

RankChannelProgramme Title‘000 P4+ShareSub Genre
51ITVCode Blue: Murder2,98414.0Crime/Real Life
52ITVConfessions Of A Serial Killer2,95611.9Crime/Real Life
53ITVSecrets Of The Royal Babies: Meghan…2,95512.9Human Interest
54BBC 2The Planets (BBC2)2,95013.2Science/Medical
55BBC 2Billy Connolly: Made In Scotland2,93510.8Celebrity
56ITVWhat Would Your Kid Do?2,93215.1Factual Entertainment
57ITVEasyjet: Inside The Cockpit2,92514.0Fly on the Wall
58ITVLove Your Home And Garden2,89713.1Hobbies/Leisure – General
59ITVFraud: How They Steal Your Bank Account2,88214.4Crime/Real Life
60ITVThe Death Of Aimee Spencer2,87411.5Crime/Real Life
61ITVDeath Row: Countdown To Execution2,80112.3Crime/Real Life
62BBC 2Winterwatch2,79513.2Natural History & Nature
63ITVThe Kyle Files2,79513.4Crime/Real Life
64ITVJoanne Dennehy: Serial Killer2,79413.0Crime/Real Life
65BBC 1Danny Dyer’s Right Royal Family2,79212.1Factual Entertainment
66BBC 1The Repair Shop2,79021.3Hobbies/Leisure – General
67BBC 2Dragons’ Den2,7779.6Factual Entertainment
68ITVLove Your Garden (Cut Downs)2,75414.4Gardening
69BBC 1Inside Out2,74513.3Human Interest
70Channel 4Three Identical Strangers2,74514.0Human Interest
71BBC 2Inside The Factory2,72813.3Hobbies/Leisure – General
72BBC 2Gardeners’ World2,70014.2Gardening
73ITV7 Up & Me2,68112.0Human Interest
74ITVPlanet Child2,66711.9Human Interest
75ITVJeremy Wade’s Mighty Rivers2,64012.8Natural History & Nature
76Channel 4Celebrity SAS: Who Dares Wins2,6259.8Factual Entertainment
77ITVThe Paras: Men Of War2,62310.3Fly on the Wall
78BBC 2Forensics: The Real Csi2,61911.7Crime/Real Life
79Channel 4Kirstie And Phil’s Love It Or List It2,57012.6Pursuits – Lifestyle – Home
80BBC 2Mississippi: Earth’s Great Rivers2,5329.3Natural History & Nature
81BBC 1The Truth About Antibiotics2,52611.6Science/Medical
82BBC 2Back In Time For School2,52210.7Factual Entertainment
83ITVAustralia With Julia Bradbury2,52111.7Travel
84ITVCountrywise2,48211.1Human Interest
85BBC 1Antiques Road Trip2,47720.2Hobbies/Leisure – General
86Channel 4Hunted2,4759.8Factual Entertainment
87ITVMartin Clunes: My Travels And… Animals2,46012.7Travel
88ITVJohn Bishop’s Ireland2,45412.3Travel
89ITVBear’s Mission With David Walliams2,43111.4Factual Entertainment
90BBC 1Escape To The Country2,42514.6Human Interest
91Channel 4Grand Designs: The Street2,42511.3Pursuits – Lifestyle – Home
92BBC 2Mary Berry’s Quick Cooking2,41411.4Cookery
93BBC 1Nadiya: Anxiety And Me2,41310.8Human Interest
94Channel 4Bake Off: The Professionals2,35311.1Factual Entertainment
95BBC 1Life Of Pies – Our Lives2,34513.5Human Interest
96Channel 424 Hours In A & E2,34511.2Fly on the Wall
97BBC 2Tom Kerridge’s Fresh Start2,3409.7Cookery
98BBC 1Garden Rescue2,32813.8Gardening
99BBC 2Nile: Earth’s Great Rivers2,3269.0Natural History & Nature
100BBC 2Hospital2,2868.9Science/Medical

Audience Analysis

  • My colleague Byron Media’s Dr John Morse is closely tracking SVOD ratings tools that are being developed by research firms, as well as deep dives into U.S. ratings for producers who are developing pitches or negotiating series extensions. Read more here.