Bake Off beats Sherlock to win 2014’s ratings war

England's defeat in the World Cup drew the biggest crowds, but it was a bad year for The X Factor and Downton Abbey

After successfully graduating from BBC2 to BBC1, The Great British Bake Off is on course to be the most watched programme of the year.


The most popular episode wasn’t “bin-gate” – when outraged tweeters accused grandmother Diana of sabotaging Irish builder Iain Watters’s baked Alaska – but the final. 13.5 million viewers tuned in to see Nancy Birtwistle scoop the Bake Off trophy in October – twice as many as watched Francis Quinn’s win a year earlier.

Sherlock was the most popular drama, attracting an audience of 12.7 million on New Year’s Day. That other BBC1 favourite Call the Midwife could beat Downton Abbey for the first time. Its most popular episode averaged 11.4 million views, more than half a million more than Downton’s – but the battle won’t be won until the Christmas specials have played out.

England’s World Cup defeat to Uruguay proved a triumph for ITV last June. It was the most watched broadcast of the year, attracting 13.9 million viewers.

The channel’s entertainment offerings proved less popular. I’m A Celebrity has slipped to sixth place after being last year’s top-rated show. X Factor also took a major hit. The singing contest currently does not appear in the top 10 most-watched list for the first time in almost a decade. 9.1 million viewers tuned into Sunday’s final – a poor show in comparison to Matt Cardle’s win in 2010, which attracted an audience of 17.2 million.

In spite of the World Cup and the popularity of Cilla and Britain’s Got Talent, ITV has suffered the most marked ratings decline of all the major broadcasters.

Of course there’s one more battle to go: Christmas day, which Mrs Brown’s Boys and EastEnders are the favourites to win, according to the bookies.

The top ten TV programmes of 2014 (according to national viewing figures from 1st January to 7th December):

1. FIFA World Cup 2014 Uruguay v England (ITV, 7pm, 19th June) – 13.9m

2. The Great British Bake Off (BBC1, 8pm, 8th October) – 13.5m

3. Sherlock (BBC1, 9pm, 1st January) – 12.7m

4. Britain’s Got Talent (ITV, 8pm, 12th April) – 12.4m

5. FIFA World Cup 2014 Germany v Argentina (BBC1, 8pm, 13th July) – 12.2m

6. I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here (ITV, 9pm, 16th November) – 12m

7. Strictly Come Dancing (BBC1, 7pm, 15th November) – 11.5m

8. Call the Midwife (BBC1, 8pm,19th January) – 11.4m

9. Coronation Street (ITV1, 8.30pm, 20th January) – 11m


10. Downton Abbey (ITV, 9pm, 2nd November) – 10.8m