|This article is written
from the Real World
point of view.
Viewing Figures are the number of viewers or households watching a television programme at any given time. Such figures are vital to commercial organisations such as ITV as they are the basis on which they charge other companies for advertisement slots although they are just as important to the BBC in that high audience figures remain an important political argument for the justification and continuation of the licence fee system.
Today all UK audience figures are based on readings from meters fixed to a sample set of televisions across the country and the information they collate being published to show a television chart ranking. This process is overseen by BARB (Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board) who were set up jointly by the BBC and the then ITV group of companies and began operating on 1st August 1981. Prior to this the BBC conducted its own audience research while the separate ITV companies sub-contracted out the task to other organisations, in the main TAM (Total Audience Measurement) and AC Neilson. With the change to the ITV network in 1968, when stations such as Associated Rediffusion were dropped and new stations such as Thames Television and London Weekend Television began, the independent stations and other interested parties (acting under the name of JICTAR, the Joint Industry Committee for Television Advertising Research, formed in the early 1960s) passed the contract for collating the data passed to AGB, today AGB Neilson, who still collate the data for the entire UK industry, BBC now included, on BARB's behalf to this day.
It should be noted that prior to the establishment of BARB, not only did BBC and ITV collect audience data separately but they collected and collated it using totally different methods. The BBC did not use meter readings but instead used audience questionnaires based on the memory of the sample they chose. They then published their data as millions of viewers. TAM/AGB used meter readings and published the data as millions of homes viewing. This latter measurement method changed on 1st August 1977 and the generally accepted conversion ratio is 2.2 viewers to one home (BFI). Therefore the first episode of Coronation Street was watched by 3,501,000 million homes which equates to 7,702,200 viewers.
Because there were several sets of audience research taking place at any one time prior to 1981 there is no set of audience data for years prior to that date which is regarded as definitive for the industry overall. The figures used on this website are in the form as originally published i.e. homes until 1977 and viewers thereafter. They are from several sources: early episodes or episodes with no chart placing are from the IBA records held by the British Film Institute library in London. Other episodes are sourced from contemporary television industry magazines, primarily Television Mail (which changed its name to Broadcast in March 1973) and on occasion The Stage and Television Today in the British Newspaper Library. It should be noted that Television Mail initially published only a top 10 until the middle of 1961 and a top 20 thereafter rising to a top 75 several decades later. After August 1981, when BARB was established, a chart of the top ten programmes for each television channel was published however the BBC objected to the number of viewers for each of these programmes being issued to the press (mainly because it would highlight the low number of viewers for the BBC in comparison to ITV at that time). Therefore, from August until January 1982, BARB published a top ten weekly ranking without audience numbers for each channel and the top twenty (soon changed to the top fifty programmes) for all channels combined for the month which did show the audience numbers. As Coronation Street was one of the most popular programmes on ITV, the vast majority of its episodes appeared within this listing and can be successfully combined with the channel rankings to continue to produce an accurate history of the programme's place in the charts. From February 1982, BARB and the BBC capitulated to the protests of ITV and the Fleet Street newspapers and, while continuing to produce a weekly top ten of programmes by channel, also published audience figures for each of those programmes.
Coronation Street 's history in the chartsEdit
Coronation Street’s presence in the charts was not instant but the programme did ascend the rankings in the spring and summer of 1961. A high point for the programme was in 1962 when in fifty of the fifty-two weeks of that year one of the episodes shown was in first place. The numbers slowly declined for the rest of the 1960s and early 1970s although they never reached the levels claimed by Daran Little in his 2000 book 40 Years of Coronation Street when he said that Episode 1264 on 26th February 1973 was watched by only 8.3 million viewers. In fact 7.1 million homes saw that episode and in that year Coronation Street reached the number one spot in seven weeks and only failed to make the top twenty on three occasions – all of them public holidays when people’s viewing habits are less consistent.
The programme slowly re-climbed the ratings in the late 1970s and again dominated the charts in the early to mid-1980s. Although Crossroads had achieved high ratings in the mid to late 1970s (after Granada starting broadcasting it from 11th September 1972, thereby ensuring it was fully networked for the first time) the first real competition came when the BBC launched EastEnders in February 1985. Quickly popular, it ascended the charts and reached the number one position in late 1985 however the media and the BBC ignored Granada’s quite accurate claim that the numbers were distorted as they combined the original showing of the episode and the Sunday omnibus repeat to produce one figure. In particular, Bill Podmore complained to the Daily Express and BARB in January 1986 after Michael Grade, then controller of BBC1, crowed that if the Christmas battle of the soaps had been a boxing match it would have been "stopped by the referee". Podmore's complaint was that the figures that the press concentrated on for EastEnders were 23.40 and 23.55 million for the week's two episodes when the actual figure for the first showing of each instalment, aside from the omnibus, was only 15.4 and 15.2 mllion respectively against Coronation Street 's 16.2 million for the episode shown on 23rd December (although it was conceded that the Christmas Day episode only gained 12.45 million). The press, suspected to have a pro-London bias, remained concentrated on the combined figures and EastEnders ' success. Until 22nd January 1989 Coronation Street did not have an omnibus edition but when it did, combined with the popular Alan Bradley storyline, the programme regained pole position. To this day, Coronation Street and EastEnders jockey for position for the number one spot on most weeks of the year.
The only major change in the viewing figures since the programme began is the importance of the Christmas edition. Quite often in the first two decades of the programme an edition shown on a public holiday, especially Christmas Day, was the lowest rated episode of the year, almost always not even making the top twenty. Probably for this reason only one episode of the programme - in 1972 - was shown on 25th December in the 1970s. In 1974 and 1978 no episode was shown on that date, even though Christmas Day fell on a normal Coronation Street transmission day. Public taste, and the broadcaster’s reaction to it, changed forever in 1986 when EastEnders’ episode on Christmas Day of that year gained over 30 million viewers – a record (although as noted above, this figure combined the omnibus numbers from the repeat a few days later). Coronation Street gained the honours the next year with almost 27 million viewers watching the departure of Hilda Ogden – a number also achieved with a one-off omnibus repeat. With the exception of 1993 an episode has been shown on Christmas Day each year since.
The table below summaries the chart rankings for Coronation Street for each year since 1960.
1) 1962 and 1965 have more episodes at the No. 1 position than there are weeks in a year as there were several weeks when both the Monday and Wednesday episode were both in first position with the same number of homes watching. They are therefore both counted within the number given.
2) No rating is known for Episode 795 (31st July 1968) as data wasn't collected due to disruption to the schedules caused by the 1968 ITV strike.
Episodes as "Millions of Homes" (1960 - July 1977)Edit
|Year||No. of eps||Eps at No.1||Highest figure||Lowest figure|
Episodes as "Millions of Viewers" (August 1977 onwards)Edit
1) From August 1981, BARB produced a top ten for each channel instead of a national top twenty. Nevertheless, from these figures, it is possible to state the programme's figures if a national chart had existed.
2) All chart placings from 1985 onwards take into account the combined figures of first showing and omnibus repeat of episodes of EastEnders as published by BARB. From 1989, when Coronation Street began its own regular omnibus, to October 1991 BARB published separate figures for both showings of all episodes of these programmes (and Neighbours) but based its overall chart placing on the combined figures. The table below follows this convention. Combined figures were published until the end of 2001 when the figures given reverted to being for the first single showing.
|Year||No. of eps||Eps at No.1||Highest figure||Lowest figure||Eps o/s top 10/20|
(with special repeat)
(with omnibus repeat)
|2014 To date||164||3||9,530,000|
Besides the regular episodes of Coronation Street, the following programmes also made the weekly charts.
- 28th December 1968 Christmas on Coronation Street - 5,900,000 million homes (15th place)
- 22nd December 1975 Annie and Betty's Coronation Street Memories - 6,600,000 million homes (5th place)
- 28th December 1983 (7.30pm) A Tribute to Violet Carson - 13,200,000 million viewers (2nd place)
- 2nd April 1984 (7.30pm) A Tribute to Jack Howarth - 14,500,000 viewers (3rd place)
- 29th August 1984 (7.30pm) A Tribute to Bernard Youens - 9,600,000 viewers (13th place)
- 26th December 1985 (7.45pm) Coronation Street - The First Twenty-Five Years - 8,700,000 viewers (62nd place)
- 17th September 1986 (8.00pm) A Tribute to Pat Phoenix - 11,935,000 viewers (8th place)
- 4th February 1988 (8.00pm) Minnie Caldwell Remembered - A Tribute to Margot Bryant - 10,800,000 (33rd place)
- 2nd December 1990 (7.15pm) Coronation Street - The First Episode - 12,100,000 viewers (18th place)
- 9th December 1990 (7.15pm) Happy Birthday Coronation Street - 13,100,000 viewers (11th place)
- 10th May 2010 (8.00pm) Goodbye Blanche - 4,700,000 viewers (37th place)
- 10th November 2010 (7.30pm) Farewell Jack - 7,250,000 viewers (26th place)
- 20th April 2011 (7.30pm) Farewell Liz - 4,400,000 viewers (31st place)
- 24th January 2012 (7.30pm) Farewell Becky - 4,570,000 (46th place)
- 13th November 2012 (8.00pm) Deirdre & Me - Forty Years on Coronation Street - 2,980,000 viewers (chart placing unknown)
- 6th June 2014 (8.00pm) Farewell Tina - 2,690,000 (chart placing unknown)