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'Downton Abbey,' 'Doctor Who' U.K. Christmas Day Specials See Ratings Drop

Supporting Actress in a Drama Series

The BBC's "EastEnders" is the most-watched show for the fourth year in a row as soap operas once again draw the biggest audiences in Britain.

British soap operas once again dominated the Christmas Day TV ratings race in the U.K. as long-running show EastEnders handily outperformed the likes of costume drama Downton Abbey.



But viewership in many cases was down from last year's Christmas Day. 



As Tuesday's top program, EastEnders on BBC1 drew 9.4 million viewers on average, according to overnight ratings data released by the British public broadcaster. That amounted to a 34.3 percent share of viewers and was down from the 9.9 million recorded last year. But the performance marked the fourth year in a row that the BBC soap, which started airing in 1985, was the most-watched Christmas Day program in the U.K.



Downton Abbey on commercial network ITV1 drew 7.3 million overnight viewers, for a 28 percent share, ITV said. That meant the sixth rank on the list of top-rated shows for the day. Last year, the costume drama had reached 8.1 million viewers and taken the fourth spot.



Long-running ITV soap Coronation Street, which was first broadcast in 1960, once again was the second most watched program of Dec. 25 with 8.8 million viewers, down from 9.0 million in 2011.



All ratings data is based on average overnight figures, which do not include people who watch the shows on a time-shifted basis.

 Observers expect dramas like Downton to see strong lifts when including delayed viewership.

BBC dancing competition Strictly Come Dancing drew 7.8 million viewers to come in third this year with its Christmas special, rising above its 2011 figures. It was followed by BBC comedy The Royle Family with 7.7 million and BBC sci-fi hit Doctor Who with an audience of 7.6 million in the fifth spot.



Last year was believed to have been the first time since modern ratings data became available that the top-rated Christmas show in Britain fell below 10 million overnight. Back then, Doctor Who came in third with 8.9 million viewers, and
 Strictly Come Dancing drew 7.5 million to come in fifth.



On Sunday, the U.K. season finale of Showtime hit show Homeland on Britain's Channel 4 peaked with almost 2.5 million viewers, but had an average audience of only 2.1 million. That was down from the 2.8 million from the average audience for the drama's first-season finale and meant a 8.6 percent share of the TV audience, according to the Guardian. 

The first episode of the second season had attracted an average audience of 2.3 million.



Email: Georg.Szalai@thr.com


Twitter: @georgszalai