Euro 2020, Line of Duty and royal interviews top the biggest TV viewership of 2021

Soccer, Royals and Looking to “Bent Copper” 2021 delivered some of the biggest TV audiences in the UK for many years, new figures show.

England’s progress through the Euro 2020 football tournament garnered bumper ratings for the BBC and ITV, but it was England’s semi-final win over Denmark on 7 July that ended up being the most-watched broadcast by any TV channel. Which was viewed by 18.4 million on ITV. ,

This was the largest audience for full coverage of a football match shown exclusively on a channel since Euro 2012.

The closing episode of BBC One’s police corruption drama Line of Duty, in which the elusive “H” was finally exposed, pulled in the highest ratings outside sports, with 15.7 million viewers – enough to make it the most-watched drama series. It is 21st century till now.

Oprah Winfrey’s exclusive interview with Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, was not far behind, with 14.8 million views broadcast on ITV.


A man watches the interview between Oprah Winfrey and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex (Aaron Chown / PA)

Figures are compiled by the PA news agency from data published by the audience research organization Barb.

They point out that last year’s top 10 most-watched events were a mix of drama, entertainment, current affairs and live events – although Covid-19 was responsible for two entries in the charts.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcement of a new nationwide lockdown on 4 January garnered 14.3 million viewers on BBC One, while the special news program that followed directly on BBC One was watched by 11.1 million people.

Household Favorite Strictly Come Dancing and I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! Both appeared in the top 10, the Strictly finale was viewed by 12.2 million people and the launch of I’m A Celebrity attracted 11.0 million.

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However, in the shape of BBC One’s submarine-based thriller Vigil and ITV’s Celebrity Guess, the new program managed to make it to the charts, competing with The Masked Singer.

All barb statistics are aggregated ratings, meaning they include people who recorded and watched a broadcast up to seven days later.

They cover viewership on TV sets, PCs, tablets and smartphones: a definition that has remained the same in recent years, making comparisons with historical ratings – which are based purely on TV viewership – less accurate.

But excluding those viewed on non-TV devices, Line of Duty’s finale still stands as the most-watched episode of a drama series on British television since March 1999, when ITV’s A Touch of Frost One episode of was watched till 15.8. One million.

Only a few shows have managed to attract a TV audience of over 15 million over the past decade, such as The Great British Bake Off (15.9 million in October 2016) and The X Factor (17.7 million in December 2010). , which makes Line of Duty’s success even more remarkable.


Adrian Dunbar, Vicky McClure and Martin Compston on the set of the sixth series of Line of Duty in Belfast (Liam McBurney/PA)

Although ITV topped the charts based on broadcasts exclusively on one channel, the Euro 2020 final on 11 July, which England lost on penalties to Italy, was shown by both the BBC and ITV, with over 18.0 million BBC One and 4.4 million were watching ITV. – A combined audience for a total coverage of approximately 22.5 million.

The Barb does not release publicly available data showing how audience sizes changed during the broadcast, but it is likely that the number of people watching the match from kick-off to the final whistle was even higher.

And while 14.3 million watched Boris Johnson’s lockdown statement on BBC One, 5.5 million watched it on ITV.

Just outside the top 10 were shows such as the ITV drama The Pembrokeshire Murders (9.8 million), Channel 4’s The Great British Bake Off (9.6 million) and the legendary BBC One drama Call the Midwife (8.8 million).

Here are the top 10 in full, compiled by the PA news agency from barb data. It is based on the highest-rated example of each program.

1. Euro 2020 England v Denmark, 7 July (ITV): 18.4 million
2. Line of Duty, May 2 (BBC1): 15.7 million
3. Oprah with Meghan and Harry, March 8 (ITV): 14.8 million
4. Prime Minister’s Statement, January 4 (BBC1): 14.3 million
5. Strictly Come Dancing, December 18 (BBC1): 12.2 million
6. BBC News special, 4 January (BBC1): 11.1 million
7. I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!, November 21 (ITV): 11.0 million
8. Vigil, September 26 (BBC1): 10.4 million
9. Happy New Years Live!, December 31 (BBC1): 10.1 million
10. The Masked Singer, February 13 (ITV): 9.9 million