Things We Learned » Viewership figures

Viewership figures

With all the furore about changing channels, it is worthwhile having at least a cursory look at some of the relevant viewership figures, beyond racing.

The most popular programme on ITV over Christmas was the Downton Abbey finale (predictably, it was the butler who did it) with 8.52 million viewers.  Then, after all the Coronation Streets and Emmerdales, it was Paul O’Grady’s For The Love Of Dogs at Christmas (no, me neither) with 3.12 million.  The most popular show on Channel 4 was Gogglesprogs (watching kids watching television, no kidding) with 3.52 million, followed by The Big Fat Quiz of the Year with 3.28 million.

Back to ordinary time for a second, away from the madness of Christmas television.  Take the week ending 6th December, the most popular shows on ITV were all the I’m A Celebrity shows.  Outside of those, and the Coronation Streets and Emmerdales and X Factors, the most popular programme was one of the ITV News programmes, with 2.99 million viewers.  The most popular programme on Channel 4 that week was (yes you’ve guessed) Gogglebox (the adult version of Gogglesprogs) with 3.59 million viewers, followed by The Jungle Book movie, with 3.42 million.

The most glaringly obvious aspect of the figures, however, was the gulf that there is between BBC 1 and the rest.  Over Christmas, BBC 1 had five programmes that had viewership figures which were higher than Downton Abbey, ITV’s most popular.

In ordinary time, the most popular programme on BBC 1 during the week ending 6th December was Strictly Come Dancing with 11.93 million viewers.  Okay, so Strictly (apparently you can call it just Strictly) is up there with the I’m A Celebrities and the X Factors, but there were a total of 17 programmes on BBC 1 that week that had more than 5 million viewers.  That included four versions of Eastenders and an Apprentice, but it also had regulars like Countryfile and Doctor Who and Antiques Roadshow.  Tellingly, the most popular BBC News had 5.46 million viewers.  The most popular ITV News had 2.99 million viewers, as above, while the most popular Channel 4 News had 1.35 million.

Interestingly, for last May’s general election in Britain, in the first hour after polls closed, Channel 4’s election programme had 1.9 million viewers while ITV’s had 1.45 million.  Channel 4’s figures were higher than ITV’s.  Dwarfing the pair of them, however, was BBC’s coverage with 6.35 million.

While there is an obvious benefit to be gained if ITV decide to promote their racing coverage during their blockbuster shows (which surely they will), the biggest issue may be the difference between BBC 1 and the rest, not the difference between ITV and Channel 4.

Mullins four-timer

There is lots of talk about the Willie Mullins four-timer again this year on the first day of the Cheltenham Festival, with bookmakers’ shareholders still turning just a little white when you refer to what might have been had Annie Power not fallen at the final flight in the Mares’ Hurdle.

They probably shouldn’t be too worried about the four-timer this year though.  They should probably be more worried about the five-timer.  To Min (Supreme), Douvan (Arkle), Faugheen (Champion Hurdle) and Annie Power (Mares’ Hurdle) add Pont Alexandre or Killultagh Vic or Roi Des Francs or Black Hercules or Milsean or Sambremont or Outlander in the National Hunt Chase.  Or just simplify it and write Patrick Mullins’ Ride.  Now, start quaking.

Harty on song

Eddie Harty had a fantastic Christmas Festival.  Three runners, three winners, Coney Island in a maiden hurdle, Copy That in a handicap hurdle, Minella Foru in the Paddy Power Chase, all three at Leopardstown, all three for JP McManus.

Harty has been under the radar a little in recent years.  It is difficult to believe that Captain Cee Bee won the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in 2008.  It was sponsored by Anglo Irish Bank back then.  That’s how long ago 2008 is.  (They weren’t signed up to the ABP either.)

However, Harty has some nice horses now.  As well as his three Leopardstown winners, he has Grade 3 mares’ novice chase winner Queens Wild and last season’s County Hurdle runner-up and Setanta Sports Hurdle winner Sort It Out and maiden hurdle winner Moon Over Germany, who is by Captain Cee Bee’s sire Germany and out of a half-sister to Harty’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner.  The trainer could be in for an interesting time of it this spring.

Marito retains lots of ability

Marito has emerged as a really interesting contender for the top hunter chases now this spring.  Easy winner of his two point-to-points in the autumn, Colin McBratney’s horse was a ready winner of the hunters’ chase at Down Royal on St Stephen’s Day.

That Down Royal race can be a big pointer to the spring.  On The Fringe finished second to Oscar Barton in the race last season before Enda Bolger’s horse went on and won the Foxhunter at Cheltenham and at Aintree under Nina Carberry.

Tammys Hill finished second to On The Fringe in the Down Royal race in 2013 before exacting his revenge in the Raymond Smith Hunters’ Chase at Leopardstown on Hennessy day and following up at Cheltenham, while Salsify finished second to Tammys Hill in the race in 2012 before winning at Leopardstown, Cheltenham and Punchestown.

Marito was a high-class novice chaser for Willie Mullins.  A close-up third behind Texas Jack in the Grade 2 novices’ chase at Leopardstown’s Irish Champion Hurdle meeting in 2013, he could have won the Jewson Chase at the Cheltenham Festival that March had he not fallen at the second last fence.  Then he ran his then stable companion Hurricane Fly to a length in the Grade 1 Morgiana Hurdle in November 2013, when he had another talented stable companion Mikael D’Haguenet behind him in third.

He will be of interest now in the Raymond Smith Hunters’ Chase at Leopardstown on Irish Gold Cup day if he takes his chance in that, and afterwards in the Foxhunter at Cheltenham, for which he is currently an 8/1 shot.

(Lucky) Hill 15

Yorkhill for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, Bellshill for the Neptune (or vice versa), Shaneshill for the JLT and Hillultagh Vic for something, the RSA Chase or the National Hunt Chase probably.  Or Barters Hill for the Albert Bartlett.  That’s probably better.  All in the shadow of Cleeve Hill.

Be sure to have the bet with William Hill.

© The Irish Field, 9th January 2016