We say this every time we view the latest UK viewing data: “the list shows real quality and is wonderfully eclectic!”
- There is a thriving appetite for nonfiction programs across genres and formats, including observational, hosted, Blue Chip, high end Lifestyle, Travel, and so on.
- The list includes several big budget Natural History, Science, History series and specials.
The shares and ratings are huge compared with U.S. audiences for comparable programs:
- Many of these categories are nearly extinct in the equivalent U.S. Top 100, where Reality series led by A&E’s Duck Dynasty continue to rock and roll.
- Or where nonfiction ‘tent poles’ are giving way to scripted ones, like this weekend’s record-setting Killing Kennedy on Nat Geo Channel.
Here is a chart of the Top 50 Factual programs in UK for 2013 through Sept 30:
|3||BBC 1||The Apprentice: The Final|
|4||BBC 1||‘Doctor Who’ Live|
|6||ITV||Her Majesty’s Prison Aylesbury|
|7||ITV||Long Lost Family|
|8||BBC 1||Penguins – Spy In The Huddle|
|9||ITV||Paul O’Grady: For The Love Of Dogs|
|10||BBC 1||Who Do You Think You Are?|
|13||CH4||My Big Fat Gypsy Valentine|
|14||BBC 1||Comic Relief|
|15||CH4||Richard III: The King In The Car Park|
|17||ITV||Martin Clunes: Heavy Horsepower|
|18||CH4||The Man With The 10-Stone Testicles|
|19||BBC 1||Andy Murray: Behind The Racquet|
|20||ITV||Secret Life Of Dogs|
|22||BBC 1||Paul O’Grady’s Working Britain|
|23||BBC 1||Child Of Our Time|
|24||BBC 1||The Prisoners|
|25||BBC 1||Great Bear Stakeout|
|26||ITV||James Nesbitt’s Ireland|
|27||BBC 1||My Hero: Miranda On Eric Morcambe|
|28||BBC 1||Bang Goes The Theory|
|29||CH4||24 Hours In A & E|
|30||ITV||Secrets From The Workhouse|
|31||ITV||Andrew Lloyd Webber|
|32||CH 5||Celebrity Big Brother|
|35||ITV||Women Behind Bars|
|36||CH4||One Born Every Minute|
|37||BBC 1||Motorway Cops|
|38||CH4||My Big Fat Gypsy Fortune|
|39||BBC 2||The Last Days Of Anne Boleyn|
|40||BBC 1||Victoria Wood’s Nice Cup Of Tea|
|41||ITV||Stephen Fry’s Key To The City|
|42||BBC 1||Britain’s Biggest Hoarders|
|43||ITV||Perspectives: Warwick Davis|
|44||CH4||16 Kids & Counting|
|45||BBC 1||The Queen: A Passion For Horses|
|46||CH4||My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding|
|47||BBC 2||The Mary Berry Story|
|48||ITV||Cornwall With Caroline Quentin|
|49||BBC 2||Dragons’ Den|
|50||BBC 1||Africa: Greatest Show|
- The BBC’s unforgettable Africa series tops the list, firing The Apprentice (now #3) from the top spot.
- Penguins (#8) establishes that innovative technical kit can deliver unique access and king size ratings.
- Africa and Penguins are good news for the BBC which is doubling down on core ‘mission’ programs in the lead up to a contentious license renewal.
- The BBC/Discovery copro deal delivered $15 million / year to the Beeb for wildlife programming.
- Its termination fueled predictions that the Blue Chip Natural History field will soon be on under severe funding pressure.
- There are five Wildlife programs in our Top 20 in our list. Two are Blue Chip and three are hosted specials. They are: For the Love of Dogs, Secret life of Dogs and Heavy Horsepower.
- Another quick Takeaway: ‘Know who you’re pitching’. I can’t tell my readers how many times I have heard that horses and birds are on the US commissioners’ list of ‘concepts that kill the pitch meeting.’ Not so in UK!
Royal / History
- History still matters to the Brits, with five in the Top 20.
- Royal topics are sprinkled up and down the list, led by ITV’s Our Queen at #5 and Richard III: The King in the Car Park with 4.9 million viewers in our #15 slot.
- And then there’s the Royal/Animals hybrid: The Queen: A Passion for Horses at #45.
Hosts are Back!
- I counted 12 in the Top 50, and may have missed quite a few.
- In our post-GFC age of chronic under-employment, Work is a recurring theme.
- It is the key topic for young job seekers in The Apprentice, horses again in Heavy Horsepower and for the UK itself in Paul O’Grady’s Working Britain.
- There’s a Work/History blend in ITV’s expose of 19th Century social horrors, Secrets of the Workhouse.
- And in several Obs/Docs formats, humanity is observed at work in prison and hospital settings.
- Extreme human conditions are still popular.
- C4 again takes the prize for low-brow Science – this time with The Man With the 10-Stone Testicles. (#18)
- That’s 140 lbs or 64 kilos for non-stoner readers!
- The list is very British: The big exception is The Apprentice, a U.S. format.
- There is less nostalgia than in our previous report, published in a Royal Anniversary year.
- The gypsy franchise expands.
- Long Lost Family and Who Do You Think You Are? show the powerful appeal of family discovery formats.
Overall Report Card?
- There aren’t many new, breakout programs that are apparent in the list.
- Big year for BBC Natural History.
- And thanks to Netflix, Hulu Plus and other platforms, I’m able to see more of the amazing quality and variety offered to Brits!
HOBBIES & LEISURE
BARB provides a separate list for ‘Hobbies & Leisure’.
- We published a fascinating Case Study on #2 Antiques Roadshow – a top BBC franchise for an amazing 35+ years.
- And Antiques Roadshow helped inspire the US History hit Pawn Stars, covered in a Case Study here, and in a panel with its ‘creation team’ on our YouTube channel in ‘Anatomy of a Hit Reality Series’.
Here are the Top 20, UK Hobbies & Leisure, 2013 through Sept 30.
|1||BBC 2||The Great British Bake Off|
|2||BBC 1||Antiques Roadshow|
|4||BBC 1||Celebrity Masterchef|
|5||BBC 2||Top Gear|
|6||BBC 1||DIY SOS: The Big Build|
|7||BBC 1||Nigel Slater’s Dish Of The Day|
|8||BBC 1||Eat Well For Less?|
|9||BBC 1||Holiday Hit Squad|
|10||BBC 1||Great British Budget Menu|
|11||BBC 1||Chelsea Flower Show|
|12||ITV||Love Your Garden|
|14||BBC 2||The Great British Sewing Bee|
|15||CH4||Location, Location, Location|
|17||BBC 1||Bargain Hunt|
|18||BBC 2||Paul Hollywood’s Bread|
|19||BBC 1||Saturday Kitchen Live|
|20||BBC 1||Antiques Road Trip|
Research assistance: Dana Bramble
Next Workshop / Tutoring Session:
World Congress of Science & Factual Producers
Co-Production Surgery: US Funds and Foundations
Montreal, Thurs, December 5th 9:00-12:30