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Baking is Hot: The Top 50 UK Factual & Lifestyle Programs for 2014, Plus Takeaways

This week we cover the 50 highest-rated Factual + Lifestyle programs in the UK for 2014, plus my Takeaways.

Perfectly Baked.

  • The Great British Bake Off from BBC 1 and Love Productions takes the prize for 2014.
  • Its 23.1 rating and audience of 13.5 million is streets ahead of #2, The Apprentice (14.1 / 8.2mn).
  • Bake Off’s Key Success Factors are ‘Authenticity’ and ‘Relatability.’
  • The amateur bakers in the competition could be family, neighbors, friends and workmates.
  • The producers don’t seem to give their talent a Reality Makeover: the contestants are themselves.
  • Bake Off is steeped in nostalgia, but it feels effortless and unconstructed.
  • I think that even my Mum could have competed. With 5 children and household guests to feed, she filled any gaps by serving a nightly dessert trolley laden with one or two delicious fresh puddings or pies, last night’s baked leftovers, a huge bowl of stewed fruit, plus ice cream, custard and cream.

BakeOff

Look: No Dirty Hands!

  • I recently met with Phil Fairclough, MD of Earth Touch USA, who had just completed a tour of network offices in NYC. I asked him what US commissioners are looking for.
  • He said “They say that they want ‘series that don’t have the producers’ dirty paws all over them.’”
  • That’s The Great British Bake Off!

TOP 50 FACTUAL + LIFESTYLE

Here are the Top 50 Factual programs in UK for 2014 through December 31 (Viewers 4+ / ‘000):

ChannelProgramViewers Rating
1BBC 1THE GREAT BRITISH BAKE OFF13,51023.1
2BBC 1THE APPRENTICE8,21914.1
3BBC 1COUNTRYFILE7,29512.5
4BBC 2TOP GEAR PATAGONIA SPECIAL7,21412.3
5BBC 1MASTERCHEF6,57711.2
6C4BENEFITS STREET6,48211.1
7BBC 1ANTIQUES ROADSHOW6,22510.6
8BBC 1WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?6,05910.4
9BBC 1THE QUEEN’S CHRISTMAS MESSAGE5,96910.2
10ITVLONG LOST FAMILY5,6909.7
11BBC 1POUND SHOP WARS5,6639.7
12BBC 1CELEBRITY MASTERCHEF5,5279.5
13ITVPAUL O’GRADY: FOR THE LOVE OF DOGS5,3599.2
14BBC 1DOLPHINS: SPY IN THE POD5,2929.0
15BBC 1DIY SOS: THE BIG BUILD5,2599.0
16BBC 1LIFE STORY5,1198.8
17BBC 1THE ONE SHOW5,1168.7
18BBC 1DAVID BECKHAM INTO THE UNKNOWN5,0748.7
19ITVSECRET LIFE OF BABIES4,8148.2
20ITVTONIGHT4,7568.1
21C4GOGGLEBOX4,6708.0
22BBC 1BRITAIN’S GREAT WAR4,6467.9
23BBC 1FAKE OR FORTUNE?4,5807.8
24BBC 1JOHN BISHOP’S AUSTRALIA4,4707.6
25BBC 1SEVEN WONDERS OF THE COMMONWEALTH4,3767.5
26ITVSTUDENT NURSES: BEDPANS + BANDAGES4,3337.4
27BBC 1WATCHDOG4,2487.3
28BBC 1PARKING MAD4,2317.2
29ITVPAUL O’GRADY’S ANIMAL ORPHANS4,1767.1
30BBC 1OPERATION WILD4,1597.1
31ITVGREAT WELSH ADVENTURE / GRIFF RHYS4,0997.0
32BBC 1INSIDE OUT4,0977.0
33BBC 1FAKE BRITAIN4,0616.9
34BBC 2MASTERCHEF: THE PROFESSIONALS4,0436.9
35BBC 1REMEMBRANCE SUNDAY: THE CENOTAPH4,0146.9
36ITVTHE MARTIN LEWIS MONEY SHOW3,9866.8
37ITV100 YEAR OLD DRIVERS3,9776.8
38BBC 1DAVINA: BEYOND BREAKING POINT FOR SPORT3,9466.7
39C4BENEFITS BRITAIN: THE DEBATE3,9376.7
40BBC 1CRIMEWATCH UK3,9096.7
41BBC 1FAMOUS, RICH AND HUNGRY3,8726.6
42BBC 1PANORAMA: DON’T CAP MY BENEFITS3,8336.5
43BBC 1HIDDEN KINGDOMS3,8016.5
44BBC 1NATURE’S MIRACLE ORPHANS3,7896.5
45BBC 1SPRING’S SUPERMARKET SECRETS3,7666.4
46BBC 1GAZA CRISIS APPEAL3,7416.4
47ITVHARRY’S SOUTH POLE HEROES3,7386.4
48C5CELEBRITY BIG BROTHER3,7126.3
49BBC 2MARY BERRY COOKS3,7076.3
50BBC 1BANG GOES THE THEORY3,6956.3

 

MORE TAKEWAYS

Low Budget / Big Punch

  • The BBC’s Countryfile comes in at #3 (12.5 rating / 7.3mn). For 25+ years, this weekly hour has drawn viewers to its snapshots of rural life. Read our earlier coverage here.
  • #8 Antiques Roadshow is in its incredible 38th year as a hit series (10.6 / 6.2mn).
  • These two quiet, low-budget hits are tentpoles for BBC1 viewers, and they punch far above their weights, round after round.

Low Gear

  • Top Gear: Patagonia Special (12.3 / 7.2mn) tugged the ugly chain of British chauvinism by reminding Argentines of their Malvinas/Falklands disaster.

Poverty Pawn?

  • Channel 4’s risky Obs doc series Benefits Street covers the residents of one of Britain’s most welfare-dependent streets.
  • The characters seem to be less ‘deserving poor’ than skilled gamers of the welfare system.
  • Benefits is the remarkable #6 viewed program in 2014 (11.1 / 6.5mn).
  • Benefits Britain: The Live Debate ended this contentious series, and despite a stilted TV format, ranked #39 (6.7 / 3.9mn).

Becks & Other Royals

  • The Queen’s Christmas Message (#9) led a fading year for royals.
  • David Beckham (#19) shows off his huge star power by channeling Motorcyle Diaries in a 90-minute feature doc.
  • Prince Harry’s South Pole Heroes is at the #47 slot.

Formats

  • Who Do You Think You Are? Celebrity MasterChef, DIY SOS and other formats populate the Top 20.
  • As we go down the list, the more classic Factual one-offs and limited series come to the fore.

Wildlife: Blue Chip & Popular

  • Dolphins (#14 / 5.3mn) built on last years’ BBC-NHU Penguins hit by using breakthrough camera kit to deliver unique access and great ratings (5.2mn).
  • Despite the lame title, the David Attenborough-hosted Life Story earned 5.1mn viewers.

Only the BBC has the massive resources to claim: “The Life Story team spent 1900 days filming the series, in 29 countries across six continents. They traveled a total of 1,850,798 miles… They recorded a total of 1800 hours of footage – that’s 300 terabytes of data, or the equivalent of 64,000 DVD’s.”

  • The other Wildlife program in our Top 20 is the popular hosted special Paul O’Grady’s For the Love of Dogs (5.4mn).
  • And, not ‘Wildlife’ because their wild days are yet to come: ITV’s Secret Life Of Babies earned 4.8mn viewers.

Two Surprises

  • The Blue Chip History genre takes a knock versus 2013, with only Britain’s Great War in the Top 25, with 4.6mn viewers.
  • The BBC’s Gaza Crisis Appeal (#46) earned 3.7mn viewers. The program raised funds for stricken Gaza following Israel’s Operation Protective Edge. The scheduling of the Special by the BBC, and its considerable audience, would have been unthinkable not long ago, and is a measure of the shift in Europe’s public opinion against Israel’s strategies versus the Palestinians. I have a particular family interest because my grandfather’s three brothers fought in Gaza in 1917 with the Australian (AIF) forces, helping the British take Palestine, including Jerusalem, from the Ottomans.

UK Compared with US

  • Many of the successful UK genres are extinct in the equivalent US Top 100.
  • The ratings are huge compared with US audiences for comparable programs.
  • The UK programming pipeline may lack breakthrough ideas right now, but it steadily delivers a mix of remarkably high-quality and diverse unscripted entertainments.

More to Come

  • In upcoming weeks, we’ll examine how the US Reality genre has grown stale, leading to eroding ratings for the leading non-fiction channels.
  • Coupled with a marginal but definitely unsettling shift to SVOD viewing, many analysts see tough times coming for the US unscripted sector.

Notes

  • The data covers Factual and Lifestyle programs. Viewers are 4+. Includes catchup. We selected the best-performing episode of series.

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Speaking Engagements

Realscreen Summit
Washington DC, January 27-30 2015

Formula For A Hit, January 28, 3:45pm.

  • As the television industry evolves to meet the threats of fragmenting media head on, so too do the methods to determine what should make it onto a particular network’s air.
  • In an era increasingly driven by big data, in which algorithms and analytics have increasing influence in programming choices, how are broadcasters adapting their metrics, measurement and marketing techniques to grab, and keep, eyeballs?
  • Find out the answers to these questions and more from some of the top minds in TV research.

Panel

Julie Taylor, SVP, Program Planning & Strategy, HGTV, DIY Network + Great American Country
Brad Dancer, SVP, Programming, Planning & Research, National Geographic Channel
Don Micallef, VP Research, Discovery Communications
Don Robert, SVP, Research & Analytics, A+E Networks
Peter Hamilton, Moderator

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