|This article is written
from the Real World
point of view.
Viewing Figures are the number of viewers or households watching a television programme at any given time. Such figures are vital to commercial organisations such as the BBC in that high audience figures remain an important political argument for the justification and continuation of the licence fee system although they are just as crucial to ITV as they are the basis on which they charge other companies for advertisement slots.
Today all UK audience figures are based on readings from meters fixed to a sample set of televisions across the country and the information they collate being published to show a television chart ranking. This process is overseen by BARB (Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board) who were set up jointly by the BBC and the then ITV group of companies and began operating on 1st August 1981. Before this, the BBC conducted its audience research while the separate ITV companies sub-contracted out the task to other organisations, in the main TAM (Total Audience Measurement) and AC Neilson. With the change to the ITV network in 1968, when stations such as Associated Rediffusion were dropped and new stations such as Thames Television and London Weekend Television began, the independent stations and other interested parties (acting under the name of JICTAR, the Joint Industry Committee for Television Advertising Research, formed in the early 1960s) passed the contract for collating the data passed to AGB, today AGB Neilson, who still collate the data for the entire UK industry, BBC now included, on BARB's behalf to this day.
It should be noted that before the establishment of BARB, not only did BBC and ITV collect audience data separately but they collected and collated it using different methods. The BBC did not use meter readings but instead used audience questionnaires based on the memory of the sample they chose. They then published their data as millions of viewers. TAM/AGB used meter readings and published the data as millions of homes viewing. This latter measurement method changed on 1st August 1977 and the generally accepted conversion ratio is 2.2 viewers to one home (BFI). Therefore the first episode of EastEnders was watched by 13 million people which equates to 17.35 million people.
EastEnders 's history in the charts
EastEnders is the BBC's most consistent programme in terms of ratings. It has proved highly popular, and Appreciation Indexes reflected this, rising from 55–60 at the launch to 85–95 later on, a figure which was nearly 10 points higher than the average for a British soap opera. Research suggested that people found the characters true to life, the plots believable and, importantly in the face of criticism of the content, people watched as a family and regarded it as viewing for all the family. Based on market research by BBC commissioning in 2003, EastEnders is most watched by 60- to 74-year-olds, closely followed by 45- to 59-year-olds. An average EastEnders episode attracts a total audience share between 35 and 40 per cent. The same-day repeat showing on BBC Three attracted an average of 500,000 viewers, while the Sunday omnibus generally attracted 3 million.
The launch show in 1985 attracted 17.35 million viewers. 25th July 1985 was the first time the show's viewership rose to the first position in the weekly top 10 shows for BBC One. The highest rated episode of EastEnders is the Christmas Day 1986 episode, which attracted a combined 30.15 million viewers who tuned into either the original transmission or the omnibus to see Den Watts hand over divorce papers to his wife Angie. This remains the highest rated episode of a soap in British television history.
In 2001, EastEnders clashed with Coronation Street for the first time. EastEnders won the battle with 8.4 million viewers (41% share) while Coronation Street lagged with 7.3 million viewers (34 per cent share). On 21st September 2004, Louise Berridge, the then executive producer, quit following criticism of the show. The following day the show received its lowest ever ratings at that time (6.2 million) when ITV scheduled an hour-long episode of Emmerdale against it. Emmerdale was watched by 8.1 million people. The poor ratings motivated the press into reporting viewers were bored with implausible and ill-thought-out storylines. Under new producers, EastEnders and Emmerdale continued to clash at times, and Emmerdale tended to come out on top, giving EastEnders lower than average ratings. In 2006, EastEnders regularly attracted between 8 and 12 million viewers in official ratings. EastEnders received its second lowest ratings on 17th May 2007, when 4.0 million viewers tuned in. This was also the lowest ever audience share, with just 19.6 per cent. This was attributed to a different one-hour special episode of Emmerdale on ITV1. However, ratings for the 10 pm EastEnders repeat on BBC Three reached an all-time high of 1.4 million. However, there have been times when EastEnders had higher ratings than Emmerdale despite the two going head-to-head.
The ratings increased in 2010, thanks to the "Who Killed Archie?" storyline and the second wedding of Ricky Butcher and Bianca Jackson, and the show's first live episode on 19th February 2010. The live-episode averaged 15.6 million viewers, peaking at 16.6 million in the final five minutes of the broadcast. In January 2010, the average audience was higher than that of Coronation Street for the first time in three years. During the 30th anniversary week in which there were vital elements and the climax of the Who Killed Lucy Beale? The storyline, 10.84 million viewers tuned in for the 30th-anniversary episode itself in an hour-long special on 19 February 2015 (peaking with 11.9 million). Later on in the same evening, a special flashback episode averaged 10.3 million viewers and peaked with 11.2 million. The following day, the anniversary week was rounded off with another fully live episode (the second after 2010) with 9.97 million viewers watching the aftermath of the reveal, the Beale family finding out the truth of Lucy's killer and decided to keep it a secret.
The table below summaries the chart rankings for EastEnders for each year since 1985.
1) From Episode 39 (2 July 1985) onwards, ratings include the Sunday omnibus edition. Episodes 1 - 38 are single showings only.
2) Only two ratings are unavailable - ratings for episodes 29 and 30.
Episodes as "Millions of Viewers" (1985 - September 1998)
|Year||No. of eps||Eps at No.1||Highest figure||Lowest figure|
|1985||91||24 October||23.55 million|
2nd July + 4th July
25th December - Part 2
20th June + 13th July
Episodes as "Millions of Viewers" (September 1998 onwards)
|Year||No. of eps||Eps at No.1||Highest figure||Lowest figure||Eps o/s top 10/20|
25th December - Part 2
25th December - Part 2
1st January - Part 2
Episode 6047/6048 (25 December 2019)
Episode 5945) (27 June)]]
|2020||58 to date||TBA||7.46 million|
Episode 6099 (23 March)
Episode 6060 (10 January 2020 - Part 2)
Besides the regular episodes of EastEnders, the following programmes also made the weekly charts.