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Viewing Figures

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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.

BackgroundEdit

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.

ChristmasEdit

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.

Annual rankingsEdit

The table below summaries the chart rankings for Coronation Street for each year since 1960.

Note:

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
1960703,848,000
30th December
3,269,000
21st December
1961102137,491,000
29th November
3,783,000
4th January
1962105578,868,000
8th October
4,785,000
11th June
1963104499,170,000
18th November
4,539,000
25th December
1964103419,710,000
12th October
4,663,000
3rd August
1965104569,660,000
20th January
4,550,000
18th October
1966104229,050,000
26th October
4,450,000
20th July
25th July
1967103279,450,000
4th September
2,780,000
25th December
1968103328,700,000
8th January
2,835,000
25th December
1969104168,350,000
26th February
5,050,000
28th July
197096248,850,000
18th February
4,250,000
25th May
1971104218,650,000
8th February
4,524,000
27th December
197210408,300,000
5th April
3,269,000
25th December
197310578,250,000
17th October
4,884,000
23rd April
197410358,300,000
20th March
5,103,000
27th May
197510228,750,000
29th January
5,290,000
25th August
197610418,800,000
7th April
4,570,000
19th April
19776099,500,000
20th April
5,345,000
25th May

Episodes as "Millions of Viewers" (August 1977 onwards)Edit

Note:
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
197744016,600,000
28th November
8,564,000
26th December
4
1978103820,443,000
20th December
9,937,000
28th August
3
1979831119,500,000
14th March
11,400,000
6th August
5
19801051419,000,000
3rd December
7,608,000
7th April
2
19811043220,800,000
18th February
9,345,000
20th April
2
19821043618,950,000
6th January
10,950,000
4th August
1
19831044818,450,000
23rd February
10,315,000
26th December
0
19841053820,449,000
14th November
9,037,000
27th August
1
19851043221,400,000
2nd January
10,001,000
29th May
1
1986105122,768,000
18th June
(with special repeat)
11,350,000
16th June
1
1987105126,629,000
25th December
(with omnibus repeat)
11,900,000
4th May
0
1988104018,150,000
4th January
8,350,000
15th June
1
19891154526,930,000
15th March
14,070,000
2nd August
0
19901574522,830,000
1st January
13,250,000
14th September
0
19911572021,600,000
20th November
10,700,000
25th December
2
19921572721,600,000
8th January
12,500,000
26th June
0
19931575120,730,000
22nd March
12,920,000
28th June
0
19941574619,680,000
14th February
12,380,000
25th December
0
19951564419,440,000
9th January
11,610,000
8th May
0
19961634519,800,000
28th February
9,900,000
14th June
1
19972094318,030,000
17th November
10,180,000
25th May
0
19982084320,300,000
18th November
11,150,000
9th August
0
19992102519,840,000
7th March
11,160,000
18th July
0
20002162119,060,000
3rd January
10,560,000
30th July
0
2001224318,140,000
23rd May
8,550,000
10th August
7
20022233415,010,000
17th November
8,190,000
3rd June
0
20032483719,430,000
24th February
8,800,000
13th July
0
20042694616,330,000
16th February
7,080,000
4th July
1
20052634714,360,000
21st February
7,550,000
27th April
1
20062584412,600,000
13th March
6,870,000
30th June
0
20072614113,080,000
15th January
6,870,000
7th September
0
20082582813,020,000
18th January
6,290,000
15th June
1
20092602211,460,000
2nd February
5,440,000
12th April
1
20102631614,100,000
6th December
5,880,000
29th August
1
2011263911,780,000
14th February
6,110,000
24th April
3
20122561011,430,000
23rd January
5,930,000
4th June
3
20132521310,030,000
21st January
5,860,000
5th July
2
2014 To date12829,530,000
20th January
5,750,000
21st May
0

Viewing figures for related broadcastsEdit

Besides the regular episodes of Coronation Street, the following programmes also made the weekly charts.

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