Documentary Business

Peter Hamilton Consultants, Inc

Royal Wedding & Better Baking: Best British Factual, 2018. The Top 200

The “Best of British” is one of my more popular posts.

I list the year’s highest-rated unscripted programs, usually to honor UK producers in time for their PACT party at Realscreen.

For a different look at 2018, I combined the Documentary, Factual, Lifestyle & Current Affairs categories, showing the best single episode for series.

It’s not exactly chalk and cheese, but the data is highly informative.

I’m busy in Mexico City, so my Takeaways are brief. And excuse the lower case show titles. More to come…


  • The Harry / Meghan wedding earned a whopping 62.9 share of the audience that was actually watching TV at the time!
  • In 2017, Blue Planet topped my list with 14 million viewers and a 45.8 share.
  • Here is the UK Top 10 for 2018, measured by Share (Individuals 4+):
ChannelProgramme TitleShare‘000
1BBC 1The royal wedding: harry & meghan62.98,916
2ITVThis morning (Oct 12)44.63,156
3BBC 1Queen’s Christmas message38.25,556
4CH4Great british bake off38.19,937
5BBC 1The apprentice32.67,296
6BBC 1Countryfile royal special: Windsor32.44,687
7BBC 1Dynasties31.38,060
8BBC 1Question time29.62,805
9BBC 1Bargain hunt28.52,769
10BBC 1Countryfile royal special: Sandringham28.44,908


Here is the 2018 #1-100, measured by Individuals 4+.

  • Royals always find a way to dominate! (#2, 5, 7, 11, 13 in the Top 20 alone.)
  • Natural History is strong, though lagging a bit versus versus previous years.
  • Wildlife leaders are:
    • Attenborough’s Dynasties (#3 / 8.1 Mn)
    • Pets specialist Paul O’Grady’s Love of Dogs (#15 / 5.3 Mn).
    • The BBC’s Blue Chip Spy in The Snow (#20 / 5.1 Mn) extends the “Spy” franchise.
    • Attenborough scores again with Giant Sea Dragon  (#25 / 4.9 Mn).
  • With Netflix investing heavily in Super- Blue Chip projects, often led by BBC-trained creatives, the BBC faces a challenge to retain its dominating wildlife audience.
  • The Great British Bake Off finale earns 10 Mn viewers, plus great #’s for Celebrity and Christmas spinoffs.
    • Its audience is even more notable because C4 is not one of the two main channels.
  • It makes me happy to see the BBC’s under-appreciated anchor franchises Countryfile and Antiques Roadshow consistently pull Top 10 rankings and spin off successful specials.
  • The “Spinoff” deserves a separate Takeaway:
    • The global video conversation has shifted to binge-able scripted series.
    • Broadcasters and Cab / Sat channels must mine their strong franchises for compelling spinoffs that offer efficient development, production and promotion.
  • The Anything-But-Royal History genre takes a knock: It’s a long way to # 43 for RAF at 100.
  • The creative juice driving the imaginative Occu-soaps that marked recent decades seems to have run dry.
    • Heathrow is at #34.
    • It is followed closely by Ambulance which is well-regarded for its special access.
  • Gogglebox slips from 5.5 Mn viewers in 2017 to 4.4 Mn.
    • It’s been a while since British creatives came up with such an innovative hit format.
  • The Science genre seems to need fresh vision: Wonders of the Moon leads at #40.
  • The True Crime genre seems to lack the intense interest shown by U.S. video consumers.
  • And note the strong showing for Current Affairs programs, reflecting our troubled times.
  • Weight Loss is an expanding category as big personal health issues speak to viewers in the Lifestyle category.
  • Hosted Travel and DIY are well represented, too.
  • Final thought: I’m always very envious of the range and creative quality of British unscripted programs.
ChannelProgramme Title‘000Share
1CH4The great british bake off9,93738.1
2BBC 1The royal wedding8,91662.9
3BBC 1Dynasties/Attenborough8,06031.3
4BBC 1The apprentice7,29632.6
5BBC 1The coronation6,89925.6
6BBC 1Countryfile6,49226.7
7ITVThe queen’s green planet6,35625.3
8ITVThe real full monty: ladies’ night6,32728.1
9BBC 1Masterchef6,08925.0
10BBC 1Antiques roadshow6,08227.9
11BBC 1Prince, son and heir: charles at 705,99626.0
12CH4Great celebrity bake off 5,67823.4
13BBC 1The queen’s christmas message5,55638.2
14ITVGordon, gino and fred: road trip5,32023.7
15ITVPaul o’grady: for the love of dogs5,27224.2
16BBC 1Antiques roadshow WW1 Special5,26427.4
17ITVThe real full monty: live5,22323.8
18BBC 1Who do you think u are?5,22125.6
19BBC 1DIY SOS: the big build5,21922.5
20BBC 1Spy in the Snow5,08525.2
21BBC 1Big cats5,02622.0
22BBC 1Celebrity masterchef4,96524.4
23ITVJames bulger: a mother’s story4,93219.5
24BBC 1Countryfile royal special: Sandringham4,90828.4
25BBC 1David attenborough  / giant sea dragon4,86018.9
26BBC 1Countryfile royal special: balmoral4,82726.1
27BBC 1The real marigold hotel4,80123.3
28BBC 1The one show4,70920.8
29BBC 1Countryfile royal special: windsor4,68732.4
30BBC 1The truth /getting fit4,59419.2
32ITVBritain’s busiest airport – Heathrow4,54425.0
34BBC 1Ambulance4,39820.5
35ITVThe martin lewis money show4,35717.9
36BBC 1Fake or fortune?4,28318.8
37BBC 1Diy sos: grenfell4,06219.5
38ITVDeath row 2018 4,03915.7
39ITVQueen of the world4,03319.6
40BBC 1Wonders of the Moon4,02215.3
41BBC 1Animals with cameras4,02118.7
42BBC 1Reported missing3,95317.1
43BBC 1RAF at 100 3,92516.5
44BBC 1Britain’s fat fight with hugh fearnley3,90917.1
45ITVThe cruise: mediterranean3,89817.1
46BBC 1The apprentice: you’re hired3,88625.9
47BBC 1Eat well for less?3,88220.7
48ITVPaul o’grady’s little heroes3,87021.2
49ITVWhat would your kid do?3,86117.9
50ITVJoanna lumley’s silk road adventure3,84418.5
51CH4The great festive bake off3,82913.4
52CH4The great christmas bake off3,82813.3
53BBC 1Shop well for less?3,80219.8
54ITVThe cruise: voyage to alaska3,80214.7
55ITVLong lost family3,76417.8
56ITVPaul o’grady love of dogs xmas3,76017.1
57ITVPresident trump – piers morgan3,71921.9
58ITVSerial killer with piers morgan3,70915.7
59ITVBritain’s favourite dogs: top 1003,69415.6
60BBC 1The truth about carbs3,68419.2
61BBC 2Masterchef: the professionals3,68418.1
62BBC 1Watchdog3,67717.1
63BBC 1Earth’s natural wonders3,67614.7
64ITVThe real camilla: hrh the duchess3,67515.6
65ITVParachute murder plot3,65714.9
66BBC 2They shall not grow old3,65318.6
67ITVChildren who kill3,65314.7
68CH424 hrs in police custody3,65217.4
69ITVThe martin lewis money show live3,65116.1
70ITVSir cliff richard: 60 years3,62916.9
71ITVHow to spend it well at christmas3,62615.5
72ITVLong lost family: what happened next3,61315.6
73ITVThe cruise: sailing the caribbean3,58714.9
74BBC 2Tom kerridge: lose weight for good3,52014.0
75ITVBilly connolly’s ultimate world tour3,49518.0
76ITVPaul o’grady love of dogs: india3,48716.4
77BBC 1The truth about looking good3,45514.7
78CH4Gogglebox: celebrity special3,45316.3
79ITVLove your garden3,39518.6
80ITVRoyal wedding: family celebration3,38715.8
81ITVPaul o’grady for the love of dogs3,37819.0
82BBC 2Royal wedding: highlights 3,36918.6
83ITV100 years younger in 21 days3,36414.8
84BBC 1A hotel for the super rich and famous3,36115.1
85BBC 1Drowning in plastic3,33114.9
86ITVPolice tapes3,32315.3
87ITVThe investigator3,32314.2
88BBC 2Dragons’ den3,32116.7
89BBC 2Top gear3,31511.7
90BBC 1Christmas shop well for less?3,30415.7
91ITVHarry meghan: 1st tour3,29314.1
92ITVRoyal wives of windsor3,27513.5
93ITVA & E live3,27315.0
94ITVHarry: four royal weddings3,27014.5
95CH4Celebrity hunted3,26815.9
96Channel 5Michael Palin N korea3,26315.4
97BBC 1Boots: pharmacists under pressure?3,21214.2
98ITVInvitation to a royal wedding3,21114.1
99BBC 2Princess margaret: the rebel royal3,19415.0
100CH4Escape to the chateau at Christmas3,18113.7


The Great British Bake Off

AUDIENCE: TOP #101-200

  • And here is 2018’s Top 101-200 Factual, including Documentaries, Lifestyle and Current Affairs. (Individuals 4+)
ChannelProgramme Title‘000Share
101ITVTrevor mcdonald and the killer nurse3,17612.8
102BBC 1Miriam’s big american adventure3,17412.8
103ITVThis morning3,15644.6
104ITVGino’s italian coastal escape3,15214.5
105BBC 1Indonesia tsunami appeal3,14824.6
106ITVRachel nickell: the untold story3,11614.7
107ITVSave money: good food3,10714.5
108BBC 2Inside the factory3,10513.9
109BBC 1Fake britain3,10415.5
110BBC 1Taking on putin: panorama3,10315.4
111BBC 1rhs chelsea flower show3,09623.8
112ITVCoronation street’s dna secrets3,05616.1
113ITVGood evening britain3,05114.2
114ITVBritain’s best walks 3,02712.6
115ITVThis morning – 30 unforgettable years3,02713.0
116BBC 1Home from home3,01114.9
117BBC 2Billy connolly: made in scotland3,00612.7
118BBC 1Inside out3,00114.1
119BBC 1Panorama: millionaire bankrupts2,99612.2
120ITVThe fast fix: diabetes2,98413.3
121BBC 2Gardeners’ world2,95013.6
122CH4The island with bear grylls2,93111.4
123BBC 1Antiques road trip2,90820.1
124ITVHarold shipman: doctor death2,90612.9
125BBC 2A house through time2,89710.9
126ITVAm i a murderer?2,88512.3
127ITV100 year old driving school2,88013.4
128ITVBritain’s busiest motorway2,87112.5
129BBC 1The truth about obesity2,86213.4
131CH424 hours in a & e2,85612.5
132BBC 1Nightmare pets sos2,85314.8
133BBC 2Surgeons: at the edge of life2,85110.3
134CH4The bulger killers: was justice done?2,82110.4
135ITVBest of the palladium2,80714.3
136BBC 1Question time2,80529.6
137BBC 1The royal wedding2,80417.6
138BBC 1Celebrities on the nhs frontline2,79412.3
139BBC 1Money for nothing2,78625.6
140CH4Grand designs2,78011.2
141ITVLong lost family christmas reunion2,77112.1
142BBC 1Bargain hunt2,76928.5
143ITVRiver monsters2,76912.5
144ITVBest walks with a view2,76817.6
145BBC 2Grizzly bear cubs and me2,75512.6
146BBC 1Elephants on the move2,74314.8
147BBC 1The sheriffs are coming2,74212.0
148BBC 1Panorama – trump voters: one year2,73811.2
149ITVRoss kemp and the armed police2,73812.8
150BBC 1Aretha Franklin: respect2,72216.6
151ITVThe kyle files2,71711.9
152BBC 2Inside the christmas factory2,71111.2
153BBC 2Trust me, i’m a doctor2,70310.5
155CH4First dates at christmas2,69911.2
156CH4Sas: who dares wins2,6959.6
157BBC 1Panorama: britain’s equal pay2,69213.1
158BBC 1River walks2,69013.7
159ITV£10k holiday home2,69014.8
160BBC 1Blue planet ii: oceans of wonder2,68116.7
161ITVEat, shop, save 20182,67714.9
162BBC 1Hs2: going off the rails? – panorama2,67512.5
163ITVDevon & cornwall cops2,66513.0
164BBC 2Travels in trumpland with ed balls2,6529.9
165BBC 1Panorama: white fright: divided britain2,64911.1
166BBC 1Stephen: the murder2,64912.8
167CH4Escape to the chateau2,64510.2
168BBC 2Dragons’ den: pitches to riches?2,64412.0
169BBC 2The mediterranean with simon reeve2,62410.8
170ITVBritain’s favourite walks: top 1002,62211.4
171CH4Married at first sight2,62112.3
172ITVEmmerdale 19182,62013.3
173ITVHow to spend it well: house and garden w2,59913.9
174BBC 1The universal credit crisis: panorama2,59712.9
175CH4Celebrity island with bear grylls2,5949.0
176ITVGriff’s great britain2,59313.1
177BBC 1The queen: her commonwealth story2,59010.3
178ITVBear’s mission with warwick davis2,58411.5
179CH4The £1 houses: britain’s cheapest street2,58310.1
180BBC 1Panorama: immigration: who?2,58112.8
181BBC 2Hospital2,57810.3
182ITVHarry and meghan – the royal wedding2,57018.2
183ITVTo catch a serial killer2,56612.1
184ITVJudge rinder’s crime stories2,55612.6
186BBC 2Flatpack empire2,53611.3
187CH4First dates: valentine’s special2,53111.0
188CH4Guy martin: the world’s fastest van?2,52211.0
189BBC 2Autumnwatch new england2,51911.6
190Channel 5Celebrity big brother2,51013.7
191ITVLove your garden: nhs special2,50613.4
192ITVThe queen’s coronation in colour2,49310.5
193BBC 1Flog it!2,48518.2
194BBC 1Lorry ladies2,48114.0
195BBC 2Winterwatch2,47211.3
196ITVThe murder of rhys jones: police tapes2,47011.0
197ITVThe detectives: the farmhouse robbery2,46811.5
198BBC 1The island that saved my life2,45313.4
199BBC 1Rip off britain2,44913.1
200ITVLove your home and garden2,44810.4

Source: BARB