Multichannel programmer UKTV has revealed that its network grew by 4 per cent in 2019, with its flagship comedy channel, Dave, ranked number one non-PSB channel for 16-34s. Bumper viewing over the festive period contributed to driving Share of Commercial Impacts (SoCI) to 7.76 per cent for 2019, versus 7.48 per cent for 2018.
Following the BBC Studios acquisition in June 2019, when Marcus Arthur was appointed CEO, UKTV has seen a strong uplift in viewing numbers across the network. UKTV Original commissions saw their best year ever accounting for seven out of the top 10 programmes across the network6. UKTV Originals also accounted for eight out of the 10 top shows for younger audiences (16-34s) as well as ABC1 audiences across the network6. Drama and Yesterday both saw gains in 2019 and finished the year as two of the top 10 non-PSB channels. Drama achieved its best year ever since its launch in 2013.
Top performing UKTV Originals include Taskmaster, Dad’s Army: The Lost Episodes (Gold), The Cockfields (Gold), Dial M for Middlesbrough (Gold), Emma Willis: Delivering Babies (W), Traces (Alibi), Hypothetical (Dave) and Expedition with Steve Backshall, co-commissioned with BBC Two (Dave) among others.
The UKTV seven channel portfolio grew its adult SoCI by 5 per cent following the BBC Studios’ acquisition of the business. The broadcaster also saw a 14 per cent increase for younger audiences (16-34s). UKTV’s exceptional growth in 2019 was achieved despite the separation of three channels Really, Good Food and Home. The broadcaster increased overall adult SoCI year-on-year from a five-year low of 7.48 per cent in 2018 to 7.76 per cent in 2019 making it the fifth biggest network in the UK.
On demand service UKTV Play became the fastest growing brand for the broadcaster year-on-year with views up 43 per cent, ending the year with more than three million registered users.
Acquisitions and BBC archive continued to supply a consistent flow of viewer favourites. Acquired content included Harrow and Waco on Alibi, The Brokenwood Mysteries on Drama, Masterchef Australia on W, Would I lie To You on Dave and Train Truckers on Yesterday.
Meanwhile, UKTV’s channel brands saw on-going success with BBC archive. Seven out of 10 BBC archive shows delivered the highest percentage of ratings across the year. Strong performing shows included; Last of the Summer Wine, New Tricks, Top Gear, Death in Paradise, Only Fools and Horses, Father Brown and QI XL. Death in Paradise and Call the Midwife attracted the fifth and eighth biggest audiences across the network with 618k viewers and 528k on top performing episodes respectively.
“We are a significant investor in British creativity and committed to working with new and established on and off-screen talent and producers, which has been demonstrated by our strong slate and success in 2019. We’ve more than doubled our development budget in the last 12 months and worked with nine new production partners.”
“Our vibrant channel brands foster loyalty in an increasingly-complex landscape and offer advertisers targeted reach and a safe environment for their ad campaigns,” commented Arthur, President of BBC Studios UK & Ireland and CEO of UKTV. “Looking ahead, we are set for growth with ambitious plans for our original commissioning and innovation across video-on-demand. We are looking to operate on a worldwide scale, creating bold, ambitious shows building on our 2019 UKTV Original successes including Traces, Expedition with Steve Backshall, and new for 2020, We Hunt Together.”
UKTV expanded commercial revenue opportunities with UKTV Ventures, a multi-million-pound airtime for equity investment fund, which reached its first full year of operations in 2019. The fund completed £1million investments into PitPat, a pet tech start-up offering a dog activity monitor. Through UKTV’s investment of commercial airtime across its network of channels, UKTV Ventures helps start-ups to build a nationally recognised brand, acquire new customers and accelerate their business growth.
Across sustainability initiatives, UKTV commissioned Expedition with Steve Backshall, the first carbon neutral production for the broadcaster. As a member of the Albert consortium, UKTV complies with mandatory carbon footprint reporting for all UKTV Originals with over 20 programmes already certified as sustainable.
The Dave partnership with mental health charity CALM (The Campaign Against Living Miserably) in 2019 was a year-long corporate social responsibility (CSR) on-air campaign which included two ad break takeovers, commissioned brand new series titled Comedy Against Living Miserably due to air in 2020, a branded podcast and off-air channel advertising campaign. CALM, a leading movement trying to help combat male suicide, appealed to Dave’s core audience with its reach of nine million men, which contributed towards an 8 per cent increase in awareness levels in what was the charity’s biggest year ever, during which the service received an average of 12,000 calls and webchats per month.
For the first time in 2019, Dave sponsored The Edinburgh Comedy Awards to further celebrate and support comics, from those breaking into the industry to much-loved names. The broadcaster renamed the Edinburgh Comedy Awards, ‘The Daves’, which saw Jordan Brookes receive the best comedy show award. The channel supported the sponsorship with a nationwide marketing campaign and commissioned over 40 pieces of original short form content for linear and social to run throughout the Fringe.
With its well-established passion for supporting fresh comedy, and with a growing slate of UKTV Originals, Dave is committed to seeking out new acts. Across the year, Dave had nine UKTV Original comedy entertainment and scripted series on the channel and worked with over 100 comedians. Commissions on Dave drove strong performance making up six of the best performing shows. Two of these were brand new for 2019 including; Hypothetical and Comedians Giving Lectures which each brought in audiences above half a million.
On Gold, UKTV Original Dad’s Army: The Lost Episodes was the highest rating programme during the year, with the first episode watched by 963k viewers. It was also the second most-watched show ever on the channel. The Cockfields achieved a consolidated audience of 788k, making it the most-watched launch ever for a UKTV Original sitcom on Gold and the second most-watched programme on Gold in 2019. In Pay Homes, Gold was the third most-watched channel (behind BBC One and Channel 4).
The second series of UKTV Original Emma Willis: Delivering Babies achieved a series peak of 476k viewers for episode four. Overall, it was the highest performing series on pay entertainment channel W in 2019, with 38 per cent of viewers aged 16-34. New UKTV Original Stacey Dooley Sleeps Over saw a strong performance as the second most watched series of the year averaging 293k viewers, with a peak of 378k for episode three.
Drama had its best year since launch with viewership driven by family favourites, including Death in Paradise and series six of Brokenwood Mysteries. Christmas saw the channel continue to break records, achieving its best day on 29 December with viewing up 28 per cent over the Christmas period.
Traces, the first UKTV Original commission on Alibi, was the crowning achievement of 2019 for the channel, launching to 660k in its first seven days, making it the channel’s biggest launch since 2011. The launch episode increased to one million viewers during the 2019 festive period. Alibi’s offering of gritty new and exclusive peak shows saw Waco launch to 265k viewers, while I am The Night attracted 249k.
Yesterday continued to deliver strong ratings and profile with its broad slate of original factual programming achieving its best year since 2013. Train Truckers launched in Q3 to 386k and was the second highest rated show on Yesterday in 2019. UKTV Original Abandoned Engineering delivered for the channel, with series four launching to 410k viewers, averaging 327k across the series.
Eden continued to shine a light on nature’s curiosities, watched by over 1.4m adults per month in 2019 and delivered its best quarter (Q3) in over a year, up +20 per cent year-on-year (YoY).
New shows coming to the UKTV network in 2020 includes; Red Dwarf for Dave along with a second series of the Josh Widdicombe and James Acaster-hosted Hypothetical, grime artist Big Zuu’s Big Eats, as well as a second commissioned crime drama for Alibi, We Hunt Together. Hat Trick Production’s Flack starring Academy Award Winner Anna Paquin as a high-flying celebrity PR returns in March on W and all new sitcom Meet the Richardsons starring Jon Richardson and Lucy Beaumont arrives on Dave in February. Sandylands, featuring a stellar cast including Natalie Dew, Sanjeev Bhaskar, David Walliams, Sophie Thompson, Craig Parkinson and Hugh Bonneville will be coming to Gold in March.