Belfast Telegraph

James Nesbitt murder drama The Secret tops the ratings

By Claire McNeilly

ITV drama The Secret was Northern Ireland's most watched television programme last year, it has been revealed.

Almost half a million people tuned in to the penultimate episode of the controversial series, which starred James Nesbitt as killer dentist Colin Howell.

The programme led the list of 20 most-viewed programmes in 2016 - surpassing even Northern Ireland's European Championship matches.

The controversial show, which told the story of the double murder of Lesley Howell and Trevor Buchanan, whose bodies were found in a fume-filled garage in Castlerock in 1991, attracted 50,000 more viewers than its closest rival.

At its height, 490,000 people saw Nesbitt in the role of Howell, while Stewart was played by Irish actress Genevieve O'Reilly in the four-episode series.

The second and third most popular programmes were Northern Ireland's Euro 2016 games against Wales (447,000 viewers) and Germany (427,000) respectively, while four of the top 10 shows were from the Euros.

Northern Ireland's telly and online habits are detailed in a new report from Ofcom, which claims that we have become a nation of TV binge viewers, with eight in 10 adults (83%) watching multiple episodes of their favourite shows in a single sitting.

The findings, which are contained in the watchdog's Communications Market Report 2017, shows the internet is now being accessed through televisions as well as smartphones and tablets.

How we watch television is also changing, with one-third (33%) of households in Northern Ireland now boasting a smart TV. That's lower than the wider UK average but almost double what it was last year.

According to Ofcom's research, people are increasingly turning to catch-up and on-demand streaming services. More than eight in ten (85%) want to watch what they want when they want, while two-thirds (65%) are shunning adverts.

The communications watchdog's report also considers people's take-up and usage of technology across a range of sectors from TV and radio through to post, telecoms and the internet.

Northern Ireland citizens now spend over 20 hours every week online, but traditional media remains popular and people spend more time watching live TV --three hours 36 minutes on average - than any other communications activity.

Ofcom Northern Ireland director Jonathan Rose said that while technology has revolutionised viewing habits, live TV still plays a critical role as a news provider.

"Despite the increasing popularity of websites and apps, it is still the most important source of news for people in Northern Ireland," he said.

UTV's early-evening news bulletin, UTV Live, attracted a 47.2% average share in Northern Ireland between 6pm and 6.30pm, more than double ITV's UK average for early-evening news bulletins in the same slot.

BBC One's counterpart bulletin in Northern Ireland, BBC Newsline, attracted a lower average share (29.5%) between 6.30pm and 7pm.

This is in line with the BBC early evening news bulletin across the UK.

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