Documentary Business

Peter Hamilton Consultants, Inc

Best of British Documentaries, Factual & Lifestyle, 2017. UK Ratings #1-100

It’s always a pleasure to share the list of the year’s highest-rated unscripted programs.

Here they are for 2017:

  • #1-50 and #51-100 are covered in this post.
  • #101-200 are in the following post (a gift for readers who are deep divers.)
  • My brief Takeaways are below the #1-50 list. Please share your own Takeaways!


  • I’m sharing more data this year because I hear that many of my readers are watching out for international co-pro’s, pre-buys and format licenses.
  • They are responding to tighter budgets and shrinking commissioning pipelines as channels react to the rise of SVOD services and other online viewing platforms.
Programme TitleChannelShare‘000
1Blue Planet IIBBC 145.814,011
2The Great British Bake OffCH436.910,045
3Diana, Our Mother: Her life + LegacyITV36.79,390
4The Apprentice: The FinalBBC 132.47,986
5CountryfileBBC 136.07,670
6The ApprenticeBBC 126.87,187
7Antiques RoadshowBBC 126.96,657
8MasterchefBBC 125.16,474
9Diana, Seven DaysBBC 132.96,425
10Rio Ferdinand: Being Mum + DadBBC 126.26,345
11Queen’s Christmas MessageBBC 139.96,232
12Spy In The WildBBC 125.76,218
13Antiques Roadshow Holocaust MemorialBBC 125.66,076
14The Real Marigold HotelBBC 123.35,999
15Wild Alaska LiveBBC 131.95,998
16Gogglebox: Celebrity Special 2017CH424.85,502
17Celebrity MasterchefBBC 123.25,484
18Our Friend VictoriaBBC 124.25,397
19Attenborough / Giant ElephantBBC 120.35,378
20The Real Full MontyITV24.25,362
21Who Do You Think You Are?BBC 122.75,242
22Fake Or Fortune?BBC 126.05,127
23Long Lost FamilyITV23.25,125
24Snow BearsBBC 123.64,969
25Paul O’Grady / DogsITV21.14,960
26Diana: In Her Own WordsCH420.64,923
27WatchdogBBC 123.54,869
28DIY SOS: The Big BuildBBC 121.44,824
29The Great Christmas Bake OffCH416.14,768
30The Truth About… SleepBBC 120.34,704
31The One ShowBBC 122.54,670
32AmbulanceBBC 121.14,660
33Police TapesITV20.54,522
34Eat Well for Less?BBC 119.74,494
35Easyjet: Inside The CockpitITV20.24,488
36Panorama: Madeleine McCannBBC 119.24,474
37The Real Marigold On TourBBC 118.34,411
38An Hour To Catch A KillerITV18.14,362
39Inside London Fire BrigadeITV18.74,317
40Britain’s Busiest Airport – HeathrowITV18.54,309
42The Met: Policing LondonBBC 119.54,224
43Martin Clunes: Islands Of AustraliaITV19.44,222
44The Martin Lewis Money ShowITV17.84,221
45The Cruise : MediterraneanITV17.34,216
46GalapagosBBC 116.94,173
47Elizabeth And Philip: Love + DutyBBC 114.64,149
48Shop Well For Less?BBC 117.34,104
49Martin Lewis Money Show LiveITV17.54,098
50Sir Bruce Forsyth: Mr EntertainmentBBC 121.74,094

The list combines BARB’s Documentary, Hobbies / Lifestyle and Current Affairs categories.


Natural History

  • Blue Planet II earned an exceptional audience. The series stepped outside the expected stunning wildlife sequences and forcefully addressed the crisis in our environment. That’s supposed to scare off audiences. It didn’t.
  • Blue Chip Natural History had a great year, with Spy In The Wild, Wild Alaska Live and Attenborough’s Giant Elephant winning Top 20 Honors.
  • (I recently covered PBS’s Natural History ratings, including Wild Alaska Live which you can read here.)


  • Prince Philip carried the weight of the Royal’s ratings in 1H 2017.
  • In 2H, viewers were drawn to Diana’s anniversary (#3, 9, 26, 65), a wedding anniversary (#47) and a Prince’s engagement (#54).

Celebrity / Pop Culture

  • Grieving football star Rio Ferdinand (#10), comedian Victoria Wood (#18) and programs inspired by The Full Monty (#20), The Real Marigold Hotel (#14, 37) and Call The Midwife (#98)…
  • … They are reminders of the evergreen appeal of factual shows inspired by celebs and legendary TV programs or movies.

Where’s Netflix?

  • Netflix and Amazon are private subscription services.
  • They don’t share viewing data, though my colleague Dr John Morse is closely tracking SVOD ratings tools that are being developed by research firms. Read more here…
Programme TitleChannelShare‘000
51Question TimeBBC 116.84,081
52The Apprentice: You’re HiredBBC 122.94,063
53Reported MissingBBC 116.64,051
54Prince Harry & MeghanITV16.84,034
55Joanna Lumley’s IndiaITV18.34,025
56The Week The Landlords Moved InBBC 118.23,982
57Masterchef: The ProfessionalsBBC 217.13,930
58The Fifteen Billion Pound RailwayBBC 217.43,908
59Supermarket Shopping SecretsBBC 116.13,861
60Italy’s Invisible CitiesBBC 114.63,859
61PanoramaBBC 120.03,855
62Ross Kemp Behind BarsITV17.13,848
63Sugar Free FarmITV16.33,840
64Gordon Ramsay On CocaineITV16.43,839
65Diana: The Day Britain CriedITV14.63,817
66Gino’s Italian Coastal EscapeITV17.43,816
67Spy in the Wild: Meet the SpiesBBC 117.63,784
68Top GearBBC 213.23,767
69How To Spend … ChristmasITV15.83,731
70Serial Killer / Piers MorganITV15.93,683
71The Ganges / Sue PerkinsBBC 115.93,671
72Love Your GardenITV17.63,653
73How To Stay YoungBBC 115.93,648
74Dec East Africa Crisis AppealBBC 126.53,635
75The BBC Election DebateBBC 117.03,625
76Britain’s Best Walks / Julia BradburyITV17.13,619
77A Very Royal WeddingITV14.93,588
78Gone To Pot: American Road TripITV13.53,585
79Money: Good HealthITV14.63,559
80Killer Women with Piers MorganITV15.73,553
81Long Lost Family: NextITV15.13,524
82Britain On The FiddleBBC 114.13,459
83The Truth About StressBBC 114.73,451
84Remembrance SundayBBC 137.23,442
85Love Your Home And GardenITV16.13,436
86The HarbourITV14.43,431
87Paul O’grady: DogsITV14.33,419
88I Am BoltBBC 115.83,409
90The Sheriffs Are ComingBBC 114.13,400
91Orkney: When The Boat ComesBBC 117.03,380
92WinterwatchBBC 214.03,378
93Harry / Meghan: Royal EngagementBBC 116.03,377
94Mary Berry’s Country House SecretsBBC 114.13,372
95Panorama: Brit’s Offshore SecretsBBC 114.23,359
96The Great Pottery Throw DownBBC 214.83,345
97Russia With Simon ReeveBBC 214.03,287
98Call The Midwife: The CasebookBBC 117.03,234
99Devon & Cornwall CopsITV14.63,206
100Planet Earth II: A World Of WonderBBC 119.63,174