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ITV’s Downton Abbey finale wins the Christmas Day ratings battle

The final episode of Downton Abbey (opens in new tab) beat Strictly Come Dancing (opens in new tab)’s Christmas Special to win the battle of the Christmas Day ratings, as 6.6 million tuned in to wish a fond farewell to the Crawleys.

With peak figures of 7.1 million, the two-hour long episode of Julian Fellowes’ drama just pipped the Strictly Special, won by Harry Judd (opens in new tab), which was the BBC’s most watched show of the day with a peak of 7 million viewers and an average of 6.5 million.

Downton Abbey

Lady Mary discovered she’s pregnant in the heartwarming Downton finale (Nick Briggs)


However, the real ratings winner was the Queen, whose 3pm broadcast had the biggest overall figures for the day, drawing 6.1 million on the BBC and 1.1 million on ITV, excluding +1 and catch-up services.

In its swansong episode, viewers watched as Downton’s Lady Edith (Laura Carmichael (opens in new tab)) finally got her happy ending with Bertie Pelham (Harry Haddon-Paton (opens in new tab)), Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery (opens in new tab)) discovered she was pregnant and Anna (Joanne Froggatt (opens in new tab)) and Mr Bates (Brendan Coyle (opens in new tab)) welcomed their first child – with no tragic deaths to break the reverie.

ITV said: “This is the first time a Downton Christmas special has topped the ratings in the UK on Christmas Day.”


Harry Judd became champion again in Strictly with partner Joanne Clifton (Guy Levy/BBC)


However, it was a drop from the 8.8 million who tuned in for the penultimate episode of the series in November and failed to replicate the astonishing figures from the first ever Downton Christmas episode in 2011, when it pulled in a consolidated audience of 12.1 million.

The BBC claimed eight of the 10 most watched Christmas shows, with Mrs Brown’s Boys (opens in new tab) and Stick Man (opens in new tab) drawing in an average of 6.4 million, and Doctor Who (opens in new tab) and Call the Midwife (opens in new tab) pulling in an audience of 5.8 million each.

Mrs Brown's Boys

6.4 million tuned in for Mrs Brown’s Boys (Alan Peebles/BBC)


Downton went head-to-head with an hour-long special of EastEnders (opens in new tab) in the 8.45pm slot, but even a shock car crash involving the Mitchell and Beale families only captured the attention of 5.7 million fans.

It still triumphed in the war between the soaps, with Coronation Street (opens in new tab) pulling in an average of 5.6 million and Emmerdale (opens in new tab) 4.3 million.


The Mitchell and Beale families found their lives threatened in the Christmas episode (BBC)


BBC One controller Charlotte Moore said: “BBC One brought the nation together with a distinctive range of programmes on Christmas Day and eight of the top 10 most popular shows.

“There are many more television treats for viewers to enjoy on BBC One over the rest of the festive season including Billionaire Boy (opens in new tab), The Great Barrier Reef (opens in new tab), Still Open All Hours (opens in new tab), David Beckham special, And Then There Were None (opens in new tab), Dickensian (opens in new tab) and Sherlock.” (opens in new tab)

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