The Northern Ireland TV viewing public has turned its back on Brendan O’Carroll’s Mrs Brown’s Boys as it struggled to make the top 10 in the Christmas ratings battle.
For six Christmas Days in a row, from 2013 to 2018, it was the most-watched TV programme in Northern Ireland.
But after losing the crown in 2019, and slumping further at Christmas 2020, the foul-mouthed Mrs Brown and her family in Finglas reached a new audience low this Christmas when the holiday special just about scraped into 10th place, according to independent audience research figures.
At one stage, three years ago, close to 300,000 homes in Northern Ireland watched Mrs Brown’s Boys at its Christmas peak but with just 103,000 viewers tuning in locally this Christmas, it’s the comedy’s lowest placing since it was first produced.
Like the rest of the UK, the Queen’s Christmas Broadcast — in which she spoke movingly about her late husband, Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh — was the most-watched Christmas TV programme in Northern Ireland. It attracted a TV audience of 240,000 in the province, with the bulk of these — 185,000 — watching it on the BBC.
Before the emergence of Mrs Brown’s Boys, the soaps had traditionally filled the top slots for the most-watched Christmas night programmes, and two ITV soaps filled second and third places in Northern Ireland, going against the UK trend.
An hour-long special from Coronation Street finished second — attracting 159,000 homes watching the special from the cobbles of Weatherfield — with Emmerdale third, attracting a local audience of 153,000 viewers.
Blankety Blank hosted by Bradley Walsh claimed fourth spot, ahead of a Strictly Come Dancing Christmas special.
Significantly the number of people watching TV for all five top programmes was up on the previous Christmas.
Call the Midwife, which was the most popular Christmas programme the previous year for the first time, had to settle for sixth place.
The ITV evening news, Michael McIntyre’s Christmas Wheel and the Mary Poppins sequel all pipped Mrs Brown’s Boys in the top 10, according to the research figures from the ratings body Barb.
The big Christmas loser was EastEnders with a shock slump in the Northern Ireland audience denying it a place in the top 10 for the first time on record.
TOP 10 IN NI
1. Queen's Christmas Broadcast 240,000
2. Coronation Street 159,000
3. Emmerdale 153,000
4. Blankety Blank 149,000
5. Strictly Come Dancing 141,000
6. Call the Midwife 132,000
7. ITV evening news 126,000
8. Michael McIntyre's Xmas Special 124,000
9. Mary Poppins Returns 114,000
10. Mrs Brown's Boys Xmas Special 103,000