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UK Factual Hits: The Sizzling Sixty for 2015

Publishing the ‘Best UK Factual’ each January makes me wish for just a moment that I had left Melbourne in 1981 for an up-and-coming Brit ‘hood like Glasgow instead of Brooklyn.

Maybe not quite so much this year. Let’s see why.

Bake Off

  • The Great British Bake Off was a huge, super-hit with more than 15 million viewers.
  • It was a wonderful, tearful television moment when Nadiya, a Bangladeshi Briton won the big prize.
  • In its sixth season, Bake Off has worked all the margins of its format, particularly casting, to deliver something that is uniquely and positively ‘contemporary British’.

bakeoff

Here’s the Sizzling Sixty:

ProgrammeRating‘000
1BBC 1THE GREAT BRITISH BAKE OFF25.915,055
2BBC 1THE APPRENTICE13.67,926
3BBC 1COUNTRYFILE13.57,844
4BBC 1DIY SOS: THE BIG BUILD13.47,771
5BBC 1MASTERCHEF11.96,952
6BBC 2TOP GEAR11.96,921
7BBC 1EASTENDERS: BACKSTAGE LIVE11.76,849
8BBC 1ANTIQUES ROADSHOW11.76,813
9BBC 1CELEBRITY MASTERCHEF10.66,171
10BBC 1BRITAIN’S SPENDING SECRETS10.36,024
11CH4GOGGLEBOX10.15,871
12BBC 1THE HUNT10.05,801
13BBC 1PETER KAY: 20 YEARS OF FUNNY9.55,536
14ITVTHE MAFIA WITH TREVOR MCDONALD9.55,529
15BBC 1EAT WELL FOR LESS?9.25,365
16BBC 1BIG BLUE LIVE9.25,329
17BBC 1FAKE OR FORTUNE?9.05,214
18BBC 1WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?8.85,136
19ITVPAUL O’GRADY: FOR THE LOVE OF DOGS8.75,058
20ITVLONG LOST FAMILY8.64,994
21ITVJ. LUMLEY’S TRANS-SIBERIAN ADVENTURE8.64,976
22BBC 1EARTH’S NATURAL WONDERS8.44,882
23BBC 1ROME’S INVISIBLE CITY8.34,820
24BBC 1KOLKATA WITH SUE PERKINS8.04,667
25ITVLAS VEGAS W TREVOR MCDONALD7.94,609
26BBC 1THE TRUTH ABOUT CALORIES7.84,560
27BBC 1GREAT BARRIER REEF / ATTENBOROUGH7.84,510
28BBC 1PETS: WILD AT HEART7.64,423
29BBC 1SECRET BRITAIN7.44,320
30BBC 1ANIMALS IN LOVE7.34,245
31BBC 1SUPER CUTE ANIMALS7.24,230
32BBC 1SNOW CHICK: A PENGUIN’S TALE7.24,215
33BBC 1ECLIPSE LIVE: A STARGAZING SPECIAL7.24,210
34BBC 1THE MET: POLICING LONDON7.24,175
35BBC 124 HOURS IN THE PAST7.14,146
36BBC 1DAVID BECKHAM: LOVE OF THE GAME7.14,138
37BBC 1THE RHS CHELSEA FLOWER SHOW6.93,997
38BBC 1SHARK6.93,994
39ITV100 YEAR OLD DRIVERS RIDE AGAIN6.83,958
40CH4GOGGLESPROGS6.83,957
41ITVRICHARD WILSON ON THE ROAD6.73,925
42BBC 1THE GIFT6.73,912
43ITVCAR CRASH BRITAIN6.73,912
44ITVJOANNA LUMLEY – ELVIS AND ME6.73,905
45ITVLOVE YOUR GARDEN6.43,717
46ITVPAUL O’GRADY’S ANIMAL ORPHANS6.43,713
47CH5CELEBRITY BIG BROTHER6.43,709
48ITVTALES FROM NORTHUMBERLAND6.33,701
49BBC 1EAT WELL FOR LESS AT CHRISTMAS?6.33,673
50ITVROOKIES6.33,664
51BBC 2DRAGONS’ DEN6.23,614
52BBC 2THE GREAT BRITISH SEWING BEE6.23,611
53BBC 1CLASS OF 92: OUT OF THEIR LEAGUE6.23,604
54CH4THE ISLAND WITH BEAR GRYLLS: WOMEN6.13,577
55CH4THE SECRET LIFE OF 4 YEAR OLDS6.13,538
56BBC 1ALL CHANGE AT LONGLEAT6.13,530
57BBC 2BACK IN TIME FOR DINNER6.03,523
58BBC 1CUE THE QUEEN: CELEBRATING CHRISTMAS6.03,504
59BBC 2WE’RE DOOMED! THE DAD’S ARMY STORY6.03,488
60CH4BENEFITS STREET6.03,467

 

Nothing New?

  • Britain has been the engine of creativity in factual TV for decades.
  • But there’s nothing particularly original and captivating that I can see in this year’s list.
  • Most of the Top 10 shows have been hits for years, if not decades.

 Plain Old!

  • There’s an old-rocking-chair vibe about British factual television right now.
  • Even the hosts are getting on: Mary Berry (b. 1935), Richard Wilson (b. 1936), Paul O’grady (b. 1955), and the venerable David Attenborough (b. 1926).

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History

  • History wasn’t a star genre: Rome’s Invisible City topped at #23.
  • Popular, History-themed entertainments held on, notably Who Do You Think You Are.
  • Takeaway? No royal anniversary or wedding: No History hits.

Blue Chip Natural History

Popular Animals

  • Pets: Wild At Heart (#28) deserved its 4.4 million viewers.
    • The BBC Natural History Unit producers turned their classic field cinematography kit onto domestic animals.
    • I saw the clip below at Sunny Side of the Doc, and loved how the thrifty  producers created a wonderful story out of a pet hamster’s wanderings.
    • Clip: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p02hpmfs

penguin

  • Snow Chick: A Penguin’s Tale(#32) was close behind with 4.4 million viewers.
    • It added the vulnerability of the hatchling to previous BBC-NHU  Penguin hits.
  • The other popular animal-themed programs in our list are ITV’s Paul O’grady: For the Love of Dogs (#19), Animals in Love (#30) and Super Cute Animals (#31).

What Did I Miss?

  • One show I didn’t see but would enjoy is C4’s Secret Lives of Four Year Olds from Zodiak/RDF (3.5 mn).
  • It’s nice that UK viewers are attracted to the Dad’s Army generation like Attenborough, and the very young.

Compared with US

  • The ratings are huge compared with U.S. audiences for comparable programs.
  • Many of these successful UK categories are extinct in the equivalent U.S. Top 50.
  • But the avalanche of Reality series that buried so much quality Factual has lost its momentum.
    • It’s been years since A&E’s awful Duck Dynasty was the last breakout Reality series.
    • The genre has grown stale, leading to eroding ratings for non-fiction channels like History, although Discovery is enjoying an upswing.
  • The good news is that the leading U.S. factual channels are committed to restoring their brands by presenting quality documentaries.
  • We’re hopeful. And watching closely!

Big Takeaway: VOD – What’s After Murderer?

  • VOD and binge-viewing has grabbed the zeitgeist.
  • Judging by the feedback from my readers and clients, the big story for 2015 was the 10-episode Netflix documentary Making a Murderer.
  • Stephen Avery seized the chatter at year end, proving that the model of SVOD-delivered Scripted series can also create binge-viewed Factual hits.
    • Amazon and Netflix are proving a global content model.
    • The BBC, Discovery, Nat Geo and others are following similar strategies, though each with their own legacies and constraints.
  • The rise of VOD will accelerate as Netflix, Amazon and others spend their billions on original series for their global VOD footprints.

More Reading

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Opportunities, Success Factors & Deal Terms
for Netflix, Amazon and VOD Platforms

Read More. Download Now: $29.95