Last year’s mega events all pulled in massive TV audiences, but how did the rest of the schedules fare?

Poor old 2013. It must feel like it’s backstage at the Shea Stadium in New York, practicing on its mouth organ for its big moment as the compère says, again: “Give it up one more time for The Beatles!” Follow that. It manages just one forlorn parp, which echoes around an emptying stadium.

One glance at boastful old 2012’s top 100 reveals the extent of the task: Olympics, Paralympics, European Football Championship and Diamond Jubilee. In our table, we include only the biggest single audience for each event to give regular commissions a chance to shine.

Total TV viewing among individuals marginally declined by 0.5% year on year in 2012. ABC1 adults increased by 3%, while 16-34s declined by 1.2% – slightly more than the previous year’s decline. The rate of recording slowed in 2012 but viewing in peaktime gained a nearly 8% lift from recording, the highest yet.

Clash of the TV titans

Christmas Day demonstrates in microcosm how viewers now negotiate their way around scheduling clashes. BBC1’s Call The Midwife was the highest recorded show of the day with nearly 3 million viewers watching via PVR, helping it overtake ITV1’s Coronation Street to claim the squeakiest of wins: 10.18 million/34% to 10.16 million/33%.

The biggest event of an event drenched year was the London 2012 Olympics, with every millimetre covered by the BBC and its myriad Olympic Channels – the biggest of which, Olympics 1, achieved an average 1% share across the whole period. While arguably the lesser spectacle, the Closing Ceremony (24.5 million) just pipped the Opening Ceremony (24.2 million).

However, the Opening Ceremony won in share terms (81% vs 79%) so there was some justice. BBC1’s share was 36% across A tough act to follow Last year’s mega events all pulled in massive TV audiences, but how did the rest of the schedules fare? Stephen Price takes a look at the highest-rating shows of the year all time (20.3% for the same period in 2011) and 39% in 1900-2230 peak (22% for the same period in 2011). During the fortnight overall, viewing rose by more than 10% across all day.

Channel 4 had a ball with the Paralympics. Its coverage of the Opening Ceremony achieved 7.9 million/38% – the fourth best performer for the channel since 2006, trumped only by Big Brother and Big Fat Gypsy Weddings.

During the event, and compared with the same period last year, C4: doubled its 1900-2230 peaktime share of all viewing for individuals from 6.7% to 13.6%; grew its commercial share from 10.1% to 20.1%; increased its 16-34 overall peaktime share from 7.8% to 11.4%; and grew its commercial 16-34 share from 10.3% to 15.3%.

Including its dedicated Paralympic channels, C4 achieved 12% share of all viewing for individuals across the day, and 14% in peak.

Other notable 2012 events included the Diamond Jubilee, the best of which was The Diamond Jubilee Concert on 4 June, which averaged 15.3 million/55%. The dampest event of all, The Diamond Jubilee Thames Pageant, averaged 10.5 million/56% across nearly fi ve hours. By Jove, it rained that day.

The best match of the European Football Championship was BBC1’s coverage of England’s forlorn exit to Italy on 24 June with 20.3 million/ 65%. ITV’s best match was England’s fi nal group game against Ukraine on 19 June with 16.3 million/57%.

There’s something of a sitcom renaissance going on, maybe accelerated by Sky’s massive investment in the genre. Whatever the reason, BBC1 has alighted on two whoppers of its own: Mrs Brown’s Boys (11.7 million/41% on Christmas Eve) and Miranda (11.5 million/40% on Boxing Day) lead the way (also, on Christmas Eve, an Outnumbered special scored 9.4 million/33%).

This corking festive start has continued into the new year with Miranda’s 7 January 2013 episode consolidating at 8.8 million/ 29% at 9pm and Mrs Brown’s Boys reaching 9.2 million/30% at 9.30pm.

All great returns for comedy, perhaps the most subjective of all TV art forms.


BBC1’s big new format The Voice UK landed in spring 2012 and began strongly. The best episode was four weeks in on 14 April: 12 million/47%. Things slipped in the latter stages but BBC1 will be hoping that the US original’s improved performance this autumn (the third season finale was the best yet) can be replicated here.

BBC1’s Strictly Come Dancing (best show: 22 December’s final with 13.4 million/50%) won the autumn shiny floor ding-dong over ITV’s The X Factor (best show: 9 December results show with 11.7 million/39%). ITV1’s Britain’s Got Talent showed it remains full of beans with a top rating of 13.1 million/49%.


It began in August 2010 with a modest 2.2 million/9%. In little over two years, The Great British Bake Off has become a monster. The 2012 finale achieved a bun-busting 7.3 million/26%.

In among all the royal pageantry was Prince William’s 30th birthday and ITV chose well for its documentary William At 30. It was the channel’s best factual offering, with the 6 July episode achieving 6.5 million/27%.


After a barnstorming summer 2010 launch, the winter return of Sherlock averaged 10.2 million/32% for its three Sunday episodes. The baton was more than picked up by Call The Midwife, which averaged 10.6 million/32% at 8pm for six weeks.

Both dramas helped BBC1 gain a significant share win on Sundays, so often the preserve of ITV. But the commercial broadcaster still has Downton Abbey as the top non-soap drama, with a 2012 best of 12.2 million/ 41% on 4 November.