Belfast Telegraph

Derry Girls trump Corrie, Bodyguard and the World Cup in our list of TV favourites

Derry Girls a smash hit with viewers
Derry Girls a smash hit with viewers
Lauren Harte

By Lauren Harte

Derry Girls was the most watched TV show in Northern Ireland last year.

The Channel 4 comedy, set in the city in the 1990s, topped the list ahead of hit drama Bodyguard, entertainment show Strictly Come Dancing and long-running soap Coronation Street.

The second episode of the first series of Lisa McGee's hit show reached an average audience of 608,000 and a share of 70% of those watching TV here at that time.

The figures from broadcast regulator Ofcom's Media Nations report show that the UK's viewing habits are rapidly changing, with around half of homes now subscribing to TV streaming services such as Netflix.

In 2018 people in Northern Ireland watched less broadcast TV than those in any other UK nation.

On average, viewers here spent three hours, five minutes per day watching broadcast television on a set, while daily viewing in Northern Ireland dropped by 14 minutes between 2017 and 2018 - the largest decline across the UK.

Since 2010 the average amount of daily TV viewing has decreased by 26%.

The main five channels (BBC One, BBC Two, UTV, Channel 4 and Channel 5) accounted for a combined 52.3% share of total TV viewing in Northern Ireland.

BBC One and Two had lower viewing shares in Northern Ireland than in the rest of the UK, while UTV and Channel 4's figures were higher here than the other UK nations.

Television remains the most popular platform for current affairs consumption with UTV and BBC One being the most-used news sources overall.

Derry Girls was the most watched TV show in Northern Ireland last year
Derry Girls was the most watched TV show in Northern Ireland last year

UTV's early evening news bulletin UTV Live attracted a 40.3% average share of viewing between 6pm and 6.30pm, just under double the Channel 3 UK average for the early evening news bulletin slot (22.9%).

BBC One's counterpart bulletin BBC Newsline attracted a lower average share (31.9%), but this was up from 30.7% in 2017.

Spending on programming for Northern Ireland by the BBC and UTV combined fell by 6% in 2018 to £27.4m, of which £10.6m was spent on news, the lowest level of news spend in 12 years.

In 2018, BBC hours of first-run content for Northern Ireland fell 6% to 561 hours while UTV's local hours content rose by 5% from the previous year to 358 hours, the highest level in 10 years.

Meanwhile, viewing of non-broadcast services on TV sets (such as streaming services Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, or gaming) has increased.

More than two-thirds of households in Northern Ireland had some form of connected TV while 53% of adults said they used on-demand/streaming.

Netflix continued its popularity with 41% of adults claiming to use it - an increase from 29%.

The rise in streaming comes despite viewers feeling broadly satisfied with the quality of broadcast TV, Ofcom said.

Of the 23% who said TV programmes have got worse over the past year, 59% cited more repeats.

Just under half of adults feel there are more advertising breaks in an hour on the main commercial TV channels than they are happy with.

Turning to radio, 93% of adults in Northern Ireland still tune in each week with local radio accounting for 60% of listening, far higher than counterpart stations in England, Scotland and Wales.

However, listening through a digital platform still only accounts for 39.5% of total listening in Northern Ireland.

Ofcom said ITV is heavily reliant on its top 10 regular programmes - including Emmerdale, The Chase, This Morning, I'm A Celebrity and The X Factor.

In 2018, these accounted for 50% of total minutes viewed on the channel but only 8% of total output.

As the row over the withdrawal of the free, universal TV licence for over-75s continues, older people in Northern Ireland are still watching more TV.

Those aged 55+ watch five hours, four minutes on average a day while children watched the least at one hour 13 minutes.

Yih-Choung Teh, strategy and research group director at Ofcom, said: "The way we watch TV is changing faster than ever before.

"In the space of seven years, streaming services have grown from nothing to reach nearly half of British homes.

"But traditional broadcasters still have a vital role to play, producing the kind of brilliant UK programmes that overseas tech giants struggle to match."

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