BBC Boss Says 'Bodyguard' Audience Handily Tops Netflix's 'The Crown' in U.K.

Credit: World Productions

"Our data suggests ... 7 million users in the U.K. in 17 months" for the royal drama, says Tony Hall at a London conference.

Netflix's hit royal drama The Crown has got nothing on ITV Studios-produced BBC drama Bodyguard in terms of viewership in Britain, BBC director general Tony Hall said in London on Thursday.

He told the Media & Telecoms 2019 & Beyond conference, organized by Deloitte and Enders Analysis, that the season finale of Bodyguard, which streams on Netflix in the rest of the world, reached 17 million viewers in the U.K. within a week. In comparison, "our data suggests The Crown .. [reached] 7 million users in the U.K. in 17 months," he said of the streamer's U.K. production from Left Bank Pictures.

Netflix doesn't typically disclose viewing figures and declined comment on the data cited by Hall. Netflix's position has been that third-party viewer figures don't tell the whole story of shows' audience reach and appeal since much of its content is released globally and doesn't include viewing on smartphones and other devices. Meanwhile, the BBC boss didn’t detail where his estimates came from, but the public broadcaster has in the past surveyed audiences about their viewing habits.

Netflix doesn't disclose its number of subscribers by country, but U.K. media regulator Ofcom last year estimated it had 9.1 million U.K. subs as of the first quarter of 2018. That number is now estimated to be in the neighborhood of 10 million subs.

Hall made his comments in highlighting things that set the BBC apart in the streaming age. "We can make linear and nonlinear TV channels and video-on-demand work together," he said.

In a chart in its annual report last summer, the BBC also referenced The Crown in detailing how much its drama unit delivered in the latest fiscal year. It said BBC Drama produced 15 series with about 85 hours of programming for a budget of 97 million pounds, or around $130 million at the time, "the same cost as two (seasons) of Netflix's The Crown." The report said they were viewed by 74 percent of U.K. adults, compared with 14 percent for The Crown, with an appreciation score of 8.7 out of 10, compared with 8.2 for the Netflix show.

Rick Porter in L.A. contributed to this report.