Queen's Christmas message returns to top of TV ratings

media captionQueen’s Christmas Speech 2020: ‘You are not alone’

The Queen's Christmas message - which focused on hope amid the pandemic - topped TV ratings on Christmas Day, overnight viewing figures have shown.

An audience of 8.14 million watched her festive address on BBC One, ITV and Sky News.

BBC One's Call The Midwife had the second highest number of viewers, with an average audience of 5.43 million, and 5.26m tuned in for Blankety Blank.

Last year, the return of sitcom Gavin and Stacey topped the ratings.

According to ratings body Barb, Strictly Come Dancing, which featured the show's 25 most memorable dances, and Michael McIntyre's The Wheel were in fourth and fifth place with 4.86 million viewers and 4.66 million respectively.

ITV's highest rated programme was Coronation Street with 4.55 million viewers, making it number six on the ratings list.

The popular soap beat BBC One rival EastEnders - which was in ninth place with 3.54 million viewers, meaning it was beaten by another soap rival, Emmerdale.

That is a far cry from festive episodes gone by for EastEnders, which was once the powerhouse of the BBC's Christmas offering - including famously in 1986 when more than 30 million tuned in to see Den Watts, played by Leslie Grantham, hand divorce papers to wife Angie, played by Anita Dobson.

image copyrightPA Media
image captionThe Strictly Come Dancing Christmas special had 4.86 million viewers

TV star Bradley Walsh, who hosted the Blankety Blank Christmas special, made a second appearance on the list with his quiz show The Chase, in at 10th place with 3.02m viewers.

In recent years, The Queen's annual broadcast has regularly been the most-watched TV show, based on the overnight figures - which do not include viewers who watch Christmas specials on catch-up services during the rest of the festive period.

This year, the 94-year-old, who like many was spending Christmas Day apart from her family, used her message to reassure anyone struggling without friends and family that they "are not alone".

She said what many people want "for Christmas is a simple hug or a squeeze of the hand" - but "even on the darkest nights there is hope in the new dawn".

She also praised acts of kindness, saying the pandemic "brought us closer" despite causing hardship.

Top 10 programmes on Christmas Day

1. The Queen - 8.14m (BBC One, ITV 1, Sky One, Sky News, BBC News)

2. Call The Midwife - 5.43m (BBC One)

3. Blankety Blank - 5.26m (BBC One)

4. Strictly Come Dancing - 4.86m (BBC One)

5. Michael McIntyre - 4.66m (BBC One)

6. Coronation Street - 4.55m (ITV)

7. Mrs Brown's Boys - 3.81m (BBC One)

8. Emmerdale - 3.57m (ITV)

9. EastEnders - 3.54m (BBC One)

10. The Chase - 3.02m (ITV)

Kate Phillips, acting controller of BBC One said: "I'm really proud of the range and quality of programmes we've shown across this special day," she said.

"BBC One entertained the nation and provided something for everyone to enjoy after a particularly difficult year."

Analysis: A good day for Bradley Walsh

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionTV presenter Bradley Walsh has two shows in the top ten

By Lizo Mzimba, entertainment correspondent

Christmas Day was an excellent day for Bradley Walsh.

He helped ITV to a stronger top 10 presence than they've enjoyed in over five years, with The Chase joining Coronation Street and Emmerdale in the day's most watched shows.

The last time the broadcaster had three top 10 programmes was back in 2014 with Downton Abbey alongside the two soaps.

(But they'll have been disappointed that Britain's Got Talent couldn't break the three million mark and also scrape into the top 10).

And Walsh also "switched channels" during the day to help BBC One's reboot of Blankety Blank into third place. A rare strong Christmas Day showing for a game show, and one which could well persuade the BBC to commission a full series return.

Overall, the 2020 Christmas Day figures do seem to reflect the gradual decline in viewing that we've seen in recent years. While it's undoubtedly true that the explosion of streaming services and other non-TV related activities has drawn away much of the traditional 25 December audience, it's also worth noting a few other factors.

This year there wasn't anything like the return of a much-loved show like Gavin and Stacey, which last year performed exceptionally, with 11.6m "overnight" viewers. A massive figure by any standards.

Also, Christmas Day is thought of as being a time when families gather to watch TV. But this year, the pandemic means that many families haven't been allowed to or have chosen not to be together, something that is likely to have had an impact on that traditional part of the audience.

But the Queen's broadcast remains a unifying moment for many, and is unsurprisingly comfortably at the top of this year's viewing chart.

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