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What did UK Viewers Watch before the Olympics? Part 2. ‘Antiques Roadshow’ Wins Gold

My out-of-the-couch reaction to Mo Farah’s fantastic 10K win on Saturday was a reminder that there are three categories of Olympic Gold:

  • Gold.
    Your garden variety step to the top of the podium.
  • Solid Gold.
    A win that captures very special athletic power and durability.
  • Heavy Gold.
    The Chinese concept for a win that is a turning point for a people or nation. Farah’s 10K, Kathy Freeman’s 400 in Sydney and Liu Xiang’s 110 hurdles at Athens come to mind.

Antiques Roadshow

This Olympic weekend, we turn to the UK Hobbies & Leisure category where Antiques Roadshow earns my Solid Gold medal for placing #1 and #5 on the Top 100 list for 1H 2012.

  • Why is AR such a dependable hit?
  • How can a 35-year strong series be kept fresh?
  • Read on…


Antiques Roadshow is one of the most successful franchises in the history of television:

  • UK:
    • It has enjoyed 35 years as a hit series.
  • International versions:
    • US: AR has been the #1 (or close) PBS show for 15+ years.
    • Canada, Sweden and elsewhere.
    • Arguably helped shape US #1 reality hit Pawn Stars and countless imitators.


Top 100, Hobbies & Leisure, 1H 2012
Viewers / ‘000

1Antiques RoadshowBBC 17,410.228.4
2MasterChefBBC 16,269.023.3
3DIY SOS: The Big BuildBBC 15,424.322.1
4Top GearBBC 25,294.115.4
5Antiques Roadshow: Diamond JubileeBBC 14,807.218.7
6The RHS Chelsea Flower ShowBBC 13,498.016.3
7The Hairy Bikers’ Bake-AtionBBC 23,220.813.0
8Love Your GardenITV13,215.514.1
9The Restoration ManCH42,811.510.5
10Location, Location, LocationCH42,799.810.6
11Countrywise KitchenITV12,715.312.2
12Bargain HuntBBC 12,539.022.6
13Homes Under the HammerBBC 12,430.926.2
14SpringwatchBBC 22,418.89.8
15Gardeners’ WorldBBC 22,398.09.3
16Saturday Kitchen LiveBBC 12,370.527.0
17The Best of Top GearBBC 22,360.08.9
18Great British MenuBBC 22,311.910.9
19Flog It!BBC 22,285.710.3
20Antiques Road TripBBC 22,253.816.1
21Put Your Money Where Your Mouth IsBBC 22,202.412.4
22Gok’s Teens: The Naked TruthCH42,162.08.9
23Hairy Bikers’ Best of BritishBBC 22,155.99.6
24Come Dine With MeCH42,083.014.5
25Our FoodBBC 22,058.38.3
26Celebrity Antiques Road RripBBC 22,036.58.8
28Britain’s Empty HomesBBC 11,951.621.0
29Wanted Down UnderBBC 11,908.628.7
30Four In a BedCH41,900.612.2
31Nigel Slater’s Simple SuppersBBC 11,894.423.7
32Come Dine With Me: Extra PortionsCH41,868.49.7
33Country House RescueCH41,860.17.6
34Gardeners’ World LiveBBC 21,818.46.7
35Rachel Allen: Home CookingBBC 11,810.621.3
36Little Paris Kitchen: Cooking w Rachel KhooBBC 21,770.46.8
37Four RoomsCH41,728.66.7
38Gok Cooks ChineseCH41,721.36.9
39Phil Spencer: Secret AgentCH41,680.86.5
40Raymond Blanc: Kitchen SecretsBBC 11,677.723.1
41Home Cooking Made EasyBBC 21,632.16.2
42Wanted Down Under RevisitedBBC 11,619.629.1
43Britain’s Heritage HeroesBBC 21,576.27.3
44Baking Made EasyBBC 21,570.75.8
45Dickinson’s Real DealITV11,561.119.4
46Two Greedy Italians – Still HungryBBC 21,512.15.9
47Put Your Money Where Your Mouth IsBBC 21,440.27.7
48The Hairy Bikers: Mums Know BestBBC 21,422.86.8
49Antiques UncoveredBBC 21,388.65.3
50Great British Food RevivalBBC 21,304.25.4
51Hugh’s Three Hungry BoysCH41,285.74.6
52Flog it! Ten of the BestBBC 21,196.413.7
53May the Best House WinITV11,183.815.3
5460 Minute MakeoverITV11,182.614.9
55Something For the WeekendBBC 21,143.211.3
56Marco Pierre White’s Kitchen WarsChannel 51,013.24.2
57Superscrimpers: Hot Summer TipsCH4904.83.4
58Sunday BrunchCH4859.79.3
59Saturday Kitchen Best BitesBBC 2737.98.1
60Chinese Food in MinutesChannel 5697.15.7
61Snog Marry Avoid?BBC 3666.13.8
62Timothy Spall: All at SeaBBC 4581.12.4
63Jamie’s 30 Minute MealsCH4552.53.2
64Meals in MomentsChannel 5528.84.0
65Grand DesignsMore4526.62.3
66Timothy Spall: Back at SeaBBC 4518.72.0
67Holiday: Heaven on EarthChannel 5502.42.2
68Priceless Antiques RoadshowBBC 2479.93.8
69River Cottage EverydayMore4473.41.5
70The Family RecipeChannel 5457.96.3
71Grand Designs AustraliaMore4453.71.6
72Kirstie and Phil’s Embarrasing BitsMore4452.42.2
73House GiftITV1450.65.5
74Top Gear Vietnam SpecialDave4494.6
75Relocation, RelocationMore4424.41.4
76Auction Hunters (Series 2)Quest420.71.6
77The Renovation GameCH4402.53.3
78River Cottage BitesCH4387.74.9
79Storage HuntersDave387.11.5
80The World’s Best DietITV2383.51.4
81See HearBBC 1378.39.3
82River Cottage: Gone FishingMore4373.41.5
83Monty Don’s Italian GardensBBC 4369.91.4
84Restoration ManMore4365.11.4
85Three in a Bed USACH4363.54.7
86Salvage HuntersQuest356.21.7
87Jamie Does…VeniceMore43511.3
88Petworth House: The Big Spring CleanBBC 4345.81.3
89Three in a BedCH43425.6
90Relocation: Phil Down UnderMore43351.2
91A Place in the SunCH4333.64.6
92Beeny’s Restoration NightmareMore4332.51.8
93Secret LocationCH4319.35.5
94A Million Pound Place In the SunMore43181.2
95Grand Designs RevisitedMore4317.91.3
96Phil’s Empty Homes GiveawayMore4315.41.2
97A Place in the Sun: Winter SunCH4313.86.8
98One Man and His CampervanBBC 2302.53.7
99Location x 3: A Decade in PropertyMore4293.91.6
100Come Dine With Me Footballers SpecialMore4290.51.5


Antiques Roadshow Profile


  • Hour
  • Hosted
  • Experts appraise objects brought to a location by the antique-owning public
  • The owners are asked to guess the value of their piece?
  • The antiquarians provide their estimate, often to the shock of the owner

Production Cycle

  • 26 episodes / year
  • 14 locations / year
  • 20+/- pieces / episode
  • 8PM Sunday slot on BBC1
  • 2 specials in past season
    • Remembrance Day
    • Queen’s Diamond Jubilee

Clip: The Vase/Junk
(Test your ear for British accents)

Why a Dependable Hit?

We asked several UK programming experts: ‘What makes AR the BBC’s most durable hit nonfiction format?’

Here are some of their answers:

  • ‘Huge charm.’
  • ‘Full of eccentric but relate-able British characters who are owners of pieces or experts.’
  • ‘A guilty pleasure.’
  • ‘Gentle and easily-watched.’
  • ‘Familiar and cosy.’
  • ‘Perfect for 8PM Sunday before the stressful work week begins.’


AR is a hybrid that involves:

  • Travel to lovely places.’
  • ‘A History series that engages people with the buried treasures of British life.’
  • ‘For several moments each week, a suspenseful guessing Game Show about the value of pieces.’


  • BBC news reader Fiona Bruce is ‘very likeable and enthusiastic, yet authoritative.’

How does the BBC team keep AR fresh?

  • Evolving Tone
    • The exchanges between public and experts are less formal.
    • Experts are ‘slightly less academic’ and more relate-able.
    • But NOISY characters are not invited!
  • New Features
    • More ‘change pieces’ (40-50 seconds) are being added before the ‘value surprise’ segment.
    • Example: a sharp exchange of views between two experts about the value of a piece.
    • A Guessing Game Segment, in which viewers guess the very different values of apparently similar objects.
  • Specials
    • The Remembrance and Jubilee specials were ratings and critical successes.
  • New Platforms
    • A new AR app will engage live audience in the Guessing Game, and more.
    • Release date: October 2012.
  • Social Media
    • AR is one of the most talked about UK TV series on Twitter.

Spinoff: Fake or Fortune

  • Experts analyze alleged fake works of art and antiques
  • Also hosted by Fiona Bruce.
  • BBC1 Sunday night lead in to AR.

My Big Takeaway: AR Delivers Value!

  • Antiques Roadshow is a ROI (return on investment) powerhouse!
  • It anchors the highly-viewed Sunday night schedule, delivering a massive if older skewing audience, decade after decade.
  • Yet AR‘s production costs are a fraction of BBC Blue Chip factual specials or drama.
  • And AR doesn’t require the higher cost and maintenance demanded by the talent that typically drives hosted cooking and lifestyle programs.

Biggest Challenge

  • Like most public broadcasters, the BBC is cutting budgets across all program categories.
  • Antiques Roadshow currently delivers 26 episodes from shoots on 14 locations.
  • The trick will be to maintain a fresh viewing experience in the face of any future pressures to further cut the # of locations.

More Reading / Videos

Editorial Assistance: Alexander Watson



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How Can You Get It?
Sunday, September 9 

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The topics

  • What do US factual channels want?
  • For docs? And Reality?
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  • Why?
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