Eastenders Beats Downton Abbey In Ratings War

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EastEnders triumphed in the head-to-head battle with Downton Abbey as BBC1 kept with tradition by coming out on top in the Christmas Day ratings.

Overnight viewing figures show Walford proved a bigger draw than the Crawley family's estate, with an average audience of 9.9 million compared with the ITV1 show's 8.1 million (8.6 million including ITV1+1 viewers).

But ITV bosses were celebrating the smallest peak-time gap between the channels for at least a decade with just a 1.4% difference in the share of viewers enjoyed by the two channels. ITV1 drew 29.7% of the TV audience between 7pm and 10.30pm, while BBC1 had 31.1%, when viewers of catch-up channel ITV1+1 are included.

The EastEnders versus Downton battle had become the key focus of this year's Christmas schedule as the two ratings winners went up against each other at 9pm. But even Bates's murder conviction and Matthew's accepted marriage proposal to Lady Mary was not enough to bring triumph to Downton.

Coronation Street was the second most-watched show of the day with an average audience of 9.3 million, helping to boost ITV's viewing share considerably from 2010 when it accounted for just a 22.1% of peak-time viewing.

Doctor Who's now traditional Christmas appearance took third place with 8.9 million viewers.

The BBC claimed seven of the top 10 places, although ITV said it had taken four of the top places using its preferred measurement which includes its ITV1+1 channel. Excluding the ITV1+1 figures, BBC1 had a 30.3% share of peak-time viewers, while ITV1 had 28.3%.

The Queen's Speech, broadcast by ITV1 and BBC1, had a combined audience of 8.2 million. The largest proportion of viewers turned to the BBC with an audience of 6.4 million. The return of Absolutely Fabulous proved a popular draw with 7.4 million viewers.

BBC1 Controller Danny Cohen said: "'I'm delighted that viewers found so much to enjoy on the channel on this special day. From Doctor Who to Gruffalo's Child, EastEnders to Strictly, Michael McIntyre and Ab Fab, we wanted to provide something for everyone."

An ITV spokesman said: "We're delighted that so many viewers enjoyed ITV1's Christmas Day schedule, including events from Downton Abbey, Coronation Street and Emmerdale. It's a terrific achievement for ITV1 to have recorded its best peak-time Christmas performance since 2004."

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