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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.

Background

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.

Annual rankings

The table below summaries the chart rankings for EastEnders for each year since 1985.

Note:

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
19859124 October23.55 million
26th December
7.75 million
2nd July + 4th July
1986105TBA30.15 million
25th December - Part 2
13.90 million
1st July
1987107TBA28.00 million
1st January
13.65 million
30th June
1988104TBA24.95 million
19th January
12.60 million
14th June
1989104TBA15.88 million
28th December
10.17 million
20th June + 13th July
1990104TBA14.87 million
27th December
8.32 million
17th May
1991105TBA16.77 million
21st November
9.54 million
4th July
1992106TBA17.75 million
9th January
11.85 million
6th August
1993105TBA17.81 million
21st January
10.47 million
20th May
1994142TBA19.31 million
27th October
7.96 million
27th June
1995157TBA17.02 million
23rd February
7.88 million
17th August
1996161TBA17.92 million
7th October
7.73 million
18th July
1997162TBA18.06 million
2nd January
7.13 million
15th December
1998107TBA15.91 million
13th January
8.01 million
12th March

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
199853TBA16.91 million
29th December
10.81 million
25th December
TBA
1999169TBA15.72 million
7th January
7.93 million
17th November
TBA
2000160TBA18.35 million
3rd January
7.82 million
17th June
TBA
2001179TBA20.05 million
5th April
9.63 million
24th August
TBA
2002211TBA16.97 million
25th December - Part 2
8.33 million
3rd June
TBA
2003210TBA16.66 million
29th September
8.58 million
24th August
TBA
2004209TBA14.80 million
5th January
6.83 million
21st September
TBA
2005209TBA14.34 million
18th February
6.76 million
22nd September
TBA
2006207TBA12.33 million
2nd January
4.11 million
13th July
TBA
2007208TBA14.38 million
25th December - Part 2
4.29 million
17th May
TBA
2008208TBA11.73 million
24th March
5.30 million
22nd July
TBA
2009209TBA11.67 million
25th December
5.02 million
7th July
TBA
2010204TBA12.61 million
25th December
4.99 million
4th June
TBA
2011210TBA11.42 million
3rd January
5.74 million
24th June
TBA
2012206TBA11.31 million
25th December
5.53 million
15th November
TBA
2013212TBA10.03 million
1st January
5.42 million
8th October
TBA
2014206TBA9.09 million
21st April
4.58 million
25th July
TBA
2015209TBA9.87 million
17th February
5.43 million
4th August
TBA
2016210TBA9.47 million
1st January - Part 2
4.83 million
27th June
TBA
2017209TBA8.41 million
2nd January
4.19 million
7th July
TBA
2018206TBA7.81 million
1st January
4.56 million
19th July
TBA
2019210TBA7.36 million
Episode 6047/6048 (25 December 2019)
4.16 million
Episode 5945) (27 June)]]
}
202058 to dateTBA7.46 million
Episode 6099 (23 March)
4.68 million
Episode 6060 (10 January 2020 - Part 2)
}

Viewing figures for related broadcasts

Besides the regular episodes of EastEnders, the following programmes also made the weekly charts.

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