The latest episode of the BBC’s hit drama series Line of Duty, which aired last year, is officially the most-watched drama of the 21st century to date.
he latest episode of BBC One’s police corruption drama drew the highest UK non-sports TV audience of 2021 with 15.7 million viewers.
It was only beaten by England’s semi-final victory over Denmark on July 7, which ended up being the most-watched show by all TV channels, seen by 18.4 million people on ITV.
It was also the largest audience for full coverage of a football match broadcast exclusively on a channel since Euro 2012.
The latest episode of the BBC One series, which is filmed across Belfast, saw DSU Ian Buckells, played by Nigel Boyle, unmasked as the mysterious H, the corrupt cop on top of a criminal conspiracy.
Line of Duty has also been a critical success on television, winning two National Television Awards last year.
Over the six series he was also nominated for numerous awards including BAFTA and won IFTA, Royal Television Society Awards (RTS), British Screenwriters’ and Crime Thrillers Award.
Oprah Winfrey’s exclusive interview with Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, was not far behind in audiences, with 14.8 million views of the show on ITV.
The numbers were compiled by the PA News Agency from data released by audience research organization Barb.
They reveal that the 10 most-watched shows of the past year were a mix of drama, entertainment, news and live events – although Covid-19 is responsible for two entries in the rankings.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcement on January 4 of a new nationwide lockdown drew 14.3 million audiences on BBC One, while the special news program that followed directly after on BBC One was viewed by 11.1 million.
Home Favorites Strictly Come Dancing and I’m a Celebrity … Get me out of here! both appear in the top 10, with the Strictly finale seen by 12.2 million people and the I’m a Celebrity launch attracting 11.0 million.
More recent shows have made it to the charts, however, in the form of BBC One’s underwater thriller Vigil and ITV celebrity contest The Masked Singer.
All of Barb’s numbers are consolidated ratings, meaning they include people who recorded and watched a show for up to seven days later.
They cover audiences that watch on TVs, PCs, tablets and smartphones: a definition that has only been implemented in recent years, making comparisons with historical ratings – which are based solely on TV audiences. – less precise.
But even excluding people who watch on devices other than TV, the Line Of Duty finale is still the most-watched episode of a drama series on British television since March 1999, when an episode of A Touch ITV’s Of Frost has been viewed by 15.8 million.
Only a small number of programs have managed to attract over 15 million viewers 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 notable.
Although ITV tops the table based on channel-only broadcasts, the Euro 2020 final on July 11, which England lost on penalties to Italy, was broadcast both by the BBC and ITV, with over 18.0 million viewers on BBC One and 4.4 million on ITV. – a cumulative audience for a total coverage of nearly 22.5 million.
Barb does not publish publicly available data showing how the size of an audience varies during a broadcast, but it is likely that the number of those who watched the match just from kick-off to the final whistle was even higher.
And while 14.3 million people have seen Boris Johnson’s lockdown statement on BBC One, 5.5 million more have seen it on ITV.
Just outside the top 10 were shows such as ITV drama The Pembrokeshire Murders (9.8million), Channel 4’s The Great British Bake Off (9.6million) and BBC drama One Call The Midwife (8.8 million).
Here’s the top 10 in full, compiled by the PA News Agency using data from Barb. It is based on the highest rated instance of each program.
1.Euro 2020 England v Denmark, July 7 (ITV): 18.4million
2. Service line, May 2 (BBC1): 15.7 million
3. Oprah With Meghan & 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, January 4 (BBC1): 11.1 million
7. I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here !, Nov 21 (ITV): 11.0 million
8. Vigil, September 26 (BBC1): 10.4 million
9. Happy New Year Live !, December 31 (BBC1): 10.1 million
10. The Masked Singer, February 13 (ITV): 9.9 million