It may be set almost a century in the past, but period drama Downton Abbey has modern technology to thank for making it the most-watched Christmas Day programme of 2011.
Following the release of initial overnight viewing figures, EastEnders was pronounced the winner of the battle of 25 December telly, having beaten Downton in the 9pm slot by almost 2 million viewers.
But consolidated ratings – including viewers who recorded the show on set-top boxes and watched it in the seven days after it was broadcast – added a further 3.5 million to the ITV1 drama’s original tally of 8.1 million.
That puts Downton top of the pile, with a total of 11.6 million against 11.3 million for EastEnders, which added just 1.5 million after so-called “time-shift viewing”.
But why might viewers have opted to record Downton and watch EastEnders? Big soap storylines are, by their very nature, event TV, and catching up with drama that continues to unfold across a week is potentially more difficult than watching a stand-alone episode like Downton later on.
Downton’s two-hour running time asked viewers to sacrifice a considerable chunk of Christmas Day, too. And complaints that the last series featured an excessive amount of adverts suggest people might have recorded it so they could skip through the commercials.
Whatever the reason, the boost the consolidated figures provided for Downton also came at a cost for ITV. The Christmas Day episode of Coronation Street – ranked second based on the overnight figures – was pushed into fourth place thanks to Downton and Doctor Who, the latter gaining almost 2 million viewers from time-shift viewing, giving it a consolidated total of 10.8 million and making it the third most-watched Christmas Day programme.
Meanwhile, Absolutely Fabulous swapped places with the Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special, adding 1.5 million further viewers after time-shift viewing was taken into account, for a total of 9.1 million.
Michael McIntyre’s Christmas Roadshow and The Gruffalo’s Child, both on BBC1, leapfrogged ITV1’s Emmerdale when consolidated figures were compared with overnights, with the Queen’s address to the nation on BBC1 completing the top ten programmes based on consolidated ratings.