Multichannel programmer UKTV has revealed that its both its channels and UKTV Play VoD service saw strong growth for share of commercial impacts (SOCI) and channel viewing thanks to high performing originals underpinned by viewers tuning in to enjoy nostalgic and archive programming, in a year that saw the world in major upheaval.
“At the start of last year, no one could have predicted what was in store,” admitted Marcus Arthur UKTV’s CEO. “The global pandemic turned life upside down and businesses were forced to quickly adapt and pivot to new ways of working. I’m incredibly proud of how the team came together during our first full year under BBC Studios ownership and embraced UKTV’s unique challenger spirit to drive the business forward. While the pandemic temporarily paused production, UKTV was uniquely positioned with an incredibly rich archive of content which has been a much-appreciated source of joy for our viewers. This, alongside our strong pipeline of Originals, helped to deliver growth across all metrics in 2020.
“We will continue to build on this momentum throughout 2021 by increasing investment in original programming, strengthening our partnerships with the production community, and by growing our video on demand service, UKTV Play. We also look forward to outlining our growth strategy for key areas of podcasts and digital content.”
UKTV grew its SOCI by 4 per cent in 2020, up from 7.76 per cent in 2019 to hit 8.07 per cent. The network also grew its 16-34 SOCI from 5.61 per cent to 5.82 per cent. During the first lockdown, UKTV added over 0.9 SOCI points (16 March to 14 June vs 6 Jan to 15 March) and broke its own SOCI record in May. In fact, six out of 10 of UKTV’s biggest ever SOCI months were in 2020.
UKTV’s seven channel network grew its viewing share by 3.2 per cent last year to 4.63 per cent, reaching over 18 million viewers a week. The network achieved year-on-year share growth for adults (+3.2 per cent), 16-34s (+2.3 per cent) and ABC1s (+5.3 per cent). In addition, Dave (+3.0 per cent), Drama (+9.6 per cent), Gold (+1.7 per cent), Eden (+2.9 per cent) and Alibi (+7.1 per cent) experienced growth, with Drama maintaining its position as the number one non-PSB owned channel in the UK.
The network also grew its social presence, launching Dave on TikTok and clocking up over 21 million views for its video content across social platforms, as well as doubling down on YouTube by reinvigorating its Dave YouTube channel.
UKTV built on its commissioning success in 2020. Red Dwarf: The Promised Land (Dave), Meet the Richardsons (Dave), Ricky & Ralf’s Very Northern Road Trip (Gold), Bangers & Cash (Yesterday) and Red Dwarf: The First Three Million Years (Dave) were the highest rating shows on the network with Red Dwarf: The Promised Land becoming Dave’s most watched show in seven years (2.02 million, total consumption). Yorkshire classic car auction series Bangers & Cash also drove big numbers to Yesterday and became the highest rating show in the channel’s history, watched by 671k.
“The March lockdown put a stop to almost all of UKTV’s productions, but since then the team have been working hard with our production partners to get every genre back up and running,” reported Richard Watsham, UKTV’s Director of Commissioning. “We also focussed our creative energies on an important development period. 2021 will see our biggest ever investment in originations and we wanted to make sure that we were ready to go with our strongest slate yet.”
“Even with the reduction in premieres last year, we broke new ground, delivering UKTV’s first BAFTA, Yesterday’s highest ever rating show and Dave’s best launch in seven years. The BAFTA is an achievement that we’ll certainly savour, but with more new, ambitious scripted shows, innovative comedy entertainment and high quality factual than ever in the pipeline, we intend to be in the running for many more awards.”
On Dave, which achieved its best SOCI performance since 2016, the success of Red Dwarf: The Promised Land was followed by Meet the Richardsons, which was watched by 1.13 million, making it the strongest launch of a brand-new original series on Dave in five years. Big Zuu’s Big Eats had one of the strongest ever 16-34 profiles of a UKTV Original on Dave, with 55 per cent of the show’s audience aged 16-34.
The evolution of crime drama channel Alibi also paid dividends with new scripted drama We Hunt Together becoming the highest rating show on the channel in 2020, watched by 602k. Produced by BBC Studios and written by Gaby Hull (Cheat, Two Weeks to Live), the 6×60’ series has been commissioned for a second outing, joining Traces which will return to Alibi later this year, alongside brand new original drama series Annika, starring Nicola Walker. New 6×60’ series The Diplomat, from World Productions, plans to start filming in Barcelona this year. In addition, acquired content performed strongly on Alibi, with stand-out performances from Miss Scarlet and the Duke, Tommy, Stumptown, and Hudson and Rex.
Gold proved a hit during the turbulence of 2020 as viewers sought out nostalgia and comforting family favourites, resulting in the channel’s best Q2 SOCI performance since 2011. However, it was once again UKTV Originals that topped the ratings chart. Ricky & Ralf’s Very Northern Road Trip was the best-performing title on Gold and achieved the accolade of being the biggest ever non-scripted title on the channel watched by 818k. Original scripted comedy, Sandylands, was second, followed by a third UKTV Original, The Fast Show: Just A Load Of Blooming Catchphrases.
Drama enjoyed a record-breaking year, recording its best quarterly shares ever in Q2 and Q3 and achieving its highest ever SOCI in May (2.8 per cent SOCI share). Yesterday also tasted SOCI success in May with its highest SOCI since 2014 and once again, UKTV Originals were the highest performing titles on the channel. The superb performance of Bangers & Cash, winner of two regional RTS awards, was followed by Dad’s Amy: The Lost episodes (567k) and The Architecture The Railways Built (502k). On W, Emma Willis: Delivering Babies picked up its second consecutive Broadcast Digital Award for Best Popular Factual. The channel also grew SOCI and saw strong performances from Masterchef Australia and Inside the Ambulance. Finally, Eden grew its impacts by 70 per cent in August with stand-out performances from the BBC’s blue-chip natural history programming including Dynasties and Spy in the Snow.
UKTV’s video on demand service, UKTV Play, grew its direct-to-consumer views by 42 per cent in 2020 and increased registered users by 45 per cent to 4.45 million. The service is available on 21 platforms and across pay and free it is on target to achieve 243 million views, which will be an increase of 17 per cent on 2019’s total. Standout hits on the service included Red Dwarf: The Promised Land, The Bill: The Early Years, Meet The Richardsons, EastEnders and Hypothetical.