The scale of the challenge facing new ITV topper Michael Grade became apparent as it emerged that audience share at the broadcaster’s flagship web ITV1 fell below 20% for the first time in 2006.
ITV1’s all-day share dropped 9% to 19.7% from 21.6% through Dec. 22, according to figures recorded by U.K. ratings outfit Barb and released by rival Channel 4.
The last week of the year is not likely to change the total significantly. C4, boosted by Endemol daytime quizzer “Deal or No Deal,” was the only one of the five U.K. terrestrial webs to increase aud share in 2006.
The channel’s all-day share averaged 9.8%, up a tick from 9.7% in 2005.
For the second year running, C4 beat BBC2, although BBC2 narrowed the gap in peak time, registering a 9.2% share vs. C4’s 9.8%, the latter down from 10% last year.
Of the terrestrial webs, Channel Five was the biggest loser, down 11% to 5.7% from 6.5% last year.
Five owner RTL will be keeping a close eye on the channel in 2007 as it faces an advertising market expected to remain in the doldrums.
BBC1, whose Christmas Day screening of sitcom “The Vicar of Dibley” registered one of the year’s biggest audiences — 11.4 million — held up relatively well, 22.7% vs. 23.3% in 2005.
BBC director of vision Jana Bennett said all the BBC channels had turned in strong performances in a “very competitive environment.”
“It’s only going to get tougher as other broadcasters strengthen their portfolios,” she added. “Creative competition and choice can only be good for the viewers.”
A spokesman for ITV said the channel had seven of the top 10 shows of the year, excluding sports.
“Across the year ITV has won more than double the audience share of its nearest commercial rival across all hours and almost treble the audience share in peak.”
Multichannel continued to plow ahead in Blighty, nailing a record 28.2% of peak-time viewing, up 15% from 24.6% in 2005.