BBC1 Touts Audience Share Gain in 2012

Olympics Dominate Euro Ratings

The London 2012 Olympic Games, which wrapped up with a star-studded closing ceremony Sunday, set ratings records around the world.  NBC's controversial tape-delay coverage drew more than 219 million viewers over 17 days, making it the most watched event in U.S. television history. It was a similar story in Europe, where London 2012 become "the most watched Olympics in history," according to the European Broadcasting Union, with coverage on European public broadcasters easily beating out ratings from Beijing 2008 and online viewing skyrocketing to record highs.

The U.K. public broadcaster's main TV channel had a banner year driven by the Summer Olympics here, the Queen's diamond jubilee and European soccer.

LONDON - The BBC's main TV channel had a banner year in 2012 as the Summer Olympics here, the diamond jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II and the European soccer championship reversed a long-term trend of declining audience share.

Channel 5 joined the public broadcaster in improving its share of ratings last year, while BBC2, ITV and Channel 4 saw ratings share declines.

The BBC itself on Thursday touted the BBC1 performance as a record year.

The channel's audience gains were the biggest of any big U.K. network in the past decade. And its audience lead over rival ITV1 was its biggest on record, according to the Guardian.

"The strength of the channel across the whole year ensured that BBC1 was the only terrestrial channel to increase its peak share year-on-year, as well as dominate with nine out of the top 10" programs, BBC1 said late Thursday. "BBC1 enjoyed its best year since 2008 in both peak and all hours share and delivered the highest average audience to the channel since 2004."

The year became the first on record to see BBC1 increase its share across all hours, with total share increasing 0.6 points to 21.3 percent.

Its peak time audience share rose to 23.5 percent for the hours of 6pm- 10:30pm, up from 22.6 percent in 2011.

The biggest program of 2012 drew 24.5 million to watch the Olympics closing ceremony. Plus, Call The Midwife and The Voice UK were the biggest new drama and entertainment series on BBC1 in over a decade

"It's been an outstanding year overall for program makers on the channel, and I'm grateful to all of them," said Danny Cohen, controller, BBC One. "I'm proud to say BBC1 brought Britain together in 2012, it w as at the heart of the U.K. and the action, but most of all it was the home of the highest quality programs. In 2013, we aim to maintain that momentum and continue to bring audiences new and exciting shows they will love."

Channel 5 was up marginally from 4.4 percent to 4.5 percent, helped by its summer schedule led by Big Brother and two celebrity editions of the evergreen reality show. Its peak time share rose from 4.3 percent to 4.4%. It was the network's first improvement since 2004.

With the expansion of pay TV and digital content options, the five major U.K. channels have been seeing their ratings share trend down over the years.

BBC2 saw the biggest decline in 2012 as its full-day share dropped from 6.6 percent to 6.1 percent in 2012, the Guardian reported. In peak time, BBC2's share declined from 7.8 percent to 7.3 percent.

ITV's flagship channel ITV1, home of Simon Cowell's The X Factor and Downton Abbey, also recorded declines, according to the Guardian. Its all-day share dropped from 16.6 percent in 2011 to 15.7 percent in 2012. Its peak time audience share fell from 21.9 percent to 20.6 percent.

Channel 4's all-day share fell from 6.8 percent to 6.5 percent, with its peak time share down from 7 percent to 6.7 percent.

Twitter: @georgszalai