LONDON — The ITV network has won the Christmas TV ratings battle with a 46% primetime viewing share — the commercial web’s first Christmas victory over the BBC in 15 years.
Although ITV aired three installments of its gameshow phenom “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” on Christmas night, the No. 1 show on Saturday was actually ITV’s venerable soap “Coronation Street,” which had 14.7 million viewers.
The Beeb’s “The Vicar of Dibley” came in second with 12.4 million, followed by “Millionaire” with 12 million. “Millionaire” also took the No. 10 spot.
BBC flagship channel BBC1 held Christmas Day overall, however, with 40.7% of viewers, down 2% from last year. ITV averaged 33.7%, up 3%. ITV’s 46% in primetime reps a 5% boost on 1998. BBC1’s 39.7% primetime share is a drop of about 5%.
ITV now has a primetime average of almost 39% for the year, 10% higher than BBC1; the gap was 6.5% in 1998.
ITV’s gains are particularly impressive given that every other major U.K. broadcaster is losing share to multichannel television. The web’s primetime target for next year is 40%.