Press release:

TV and all the trimmings: 6.7 million Brits put family-friendly TV at the top of their wishlist of festive favourites this Christmas

  • One in eight (13%)[1] – or nearly seven million[2] – Brits are most looking forward to watching festive TV and films with the family this Christmas
  • The average viewer will spend around five hours tuned into TV this Christmas Day[3], spurred on by family favourites like the Doctor Who Christmas Special and Call the Midwife[4]
  • Four in 10 (41%) viewers enjoy getting stuck into Christmas programming with the family while a third (34%) can’t wait for Xmas day specials (34%)[5]
  • Meanwhile viewers are still likely to grumble about Boxing Day sales ads (37%) and Christmas reruns (30%) – but have enjoyed something of a festive truce with a mere 5% bothered by remote control squabbles[5]
  • Nostalgia-hungry viewers would most like to see the three (not-so) wise men of Only Fools and Horses return for a one-off special, followed by a suitably seasonal Vicar of Dibley and a festive Fawlty Towers[6].
  • Nostalgia-hungry viewers would most like to see the three (not-so) wise men of Only Fools and Horses return for a one-off special, followed by a suitably seasonal Vicar of Dibley and a festive Fawlty Towers[6]

Turkey, toys and TV – yes, television – are at the top of the nation’s wishlists for Christmas this year. In fact, one in eight (13%)[1] – or 6.7 million[2] – Brits think watching TV and films with the family is their favourite thing about the festive season, according to research by uSwitch.com, the price comparison and switching service.

On average, viewers will spend just shy of five hours tucking into festive programming on Christmas Day – across both live (3.2 hours) and on-demand (1.6 hours) formats[3]. While the gleeful chaos of Christmas dinner (26%) and gifting presents (21%) are our favourite things about the season, watching festive TV and films with the family makes the top three things Brits love about Christmas – beating time off work (12%), receiving presents (4%) and the long-time traditional staple, carol singing (2%)[1].

Over the whole Christmas period, viewers will gorge on nearly 43 hours of television[7]. Festive specials from Doctor Who (16%), Call the Midwife (13%) and Strictly Come Dancing (12%) – which will treat fans to both a Christmas special and the long-awaited finale – are the most anticipated shows this season[4], while traditional yuletide programming such as the Queen’s Speech (6%) seemingly fails to excite viewers like it used to[4].

Despite the rise of on-demand fueling the boom in shows being watched on a variety of devices, this Christmas nearly all (96%) viewers will catch at least some festive programming the traditional way, on a TV[8]. In fact, watching programmes at Christmas seems to be one of the few family occasions when viewing is truly social. Around 40% of all television watched this Christmas period will be with friends and family while one in eight (12%) viewers admit they’ll do 80% of their TV viewing surrounded by loved ones[9].

Over four in 10 (41%) viewers enjoy watching TV and films with family over the Christmas period, with a third (34%) actively looking forward to Xmas day specials and three in 10 (30%) believing festive TV brings the family together[5]. And it seems when watching TV and films over the Christmas period, traditional family arguments over who controls what’s on the box seem to be enjoying a festive truce. Only 5% have argued about what to watch and have been annoyed by it[5].

On the other end of the cracker, viewers are turned off by the thought of endless Christmas and Boxing Day sales adverts (37%) as well as reruns of TV and films they’ve already seen (30%)[5]. Perhaps having scoffed too many reheated turkey sandwiches, one in 10 (12%) are also annoyed by falling asleep in front of programmes they wanted to watch[5].

Nostalgia is another unifying factor when it comes to watching Christmas TV with viewers championing the return of long-gone favourites. The return of the three (not-so) wise men in the form of Del Boy, Rodney and Uncle Albert in Only Fools & Horses tops the list of programmes Brits would like to see brought back for a Christmas special – followed by a suitably seasonal Vicar of Dibley and – in what would be a first ever for the show – a festive Fawlty Towers[6].

Table one: The top 10 classic programmes viewers would like to see return for a Christmas special:

Dani Warner, TV expert at uSwitch.com, comments: “For many, the whole family being gathered around the box after stuffing ourselves with turkey and all the trimmings is a key part of Christmas Day. Our viewing tastes might have moved away from the traditional – such as the Queen’s annual address – but the fact that so many of us still voraciously watch television together over Christmas is a sign of how ingrained it is in the fabric of the big day.

“This is especially significant when you look at how our viewing habits have changed in the last few years. We’re often increasingly isolated when we watch television these days[10] – with the likes of on-demand allowing us to catch-up when and how we want – but the festive season sees us buck this trend. As it stands, fewer than one in 10 (8%) viewers will actually slink off with their iPads or laptops and watch all of their TV this Christmas alone[8].

“That’s not to say that you need to be stuck to the TV schedule this Christmas. Sky Cinema has their annual Christmas film channel again this year, airing favourites like The Grinch, It’s a Wonderful Life and Bad Santa. If you don’t fancy Christmas flicks or celebrity TV specials, services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime and BBC iPlayer offer original programming and Crimbo classics so there’s plenty of choice beyond what’s on terrestrial. Additions to the likes of Netflix for the jolliest of seasons include Miracle on 34th Street, Jingle All the Way and Love Actually, as well as left-field Christmas chillers such as Krampus.

“If you fancy watching something on-demand but you don’t want to do so on your own, devices such as the Chromecast allow you to project – or ‘cast’ – shows onto the screen, meaning you can easily watch on-demand favourites with the family.

“In short, if you’ve inhaled a pile of mince pies and don’t want to move off the sofa for a few hours, there’s plenty beyond the standard scheduling that you can get stuck into with all the family.”

Find out how you could save over £1,000 a year with uSwitch here.

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Notes to editors

uSwitch.com surveyed a nationally representative sample of 2,001 nationally representative UK adults (aged 18+) from 21-24 November 2017. Results have been weighted to nationally representative criteria.

  1. Respondents were asked: ‘What is your favourite thing about the Christmas period?’ The net response for ‘Christmas dinner’ was 26%, ‘Giving presents’ was 21%, ‘Watching TV/films with the family’ was 13%, ‘Getting time off work’ was 12%, ‘Receiving presents’ was 4% and ‘carol singing’ was 2%
  2. According to ONS, there are currently 51,767,000 UK adults. 13% of 51,767,000 = 6,729,710
  3. Respondents who watch TV were asked: ‘How much TV do you anticipate watching on Christmas day?’ The mean response for ‘live’ was ‘3.2 hours’ and for ‘on-demand’ was ‘1.6 hours’. 3.2+1.6 = 4.8 hours
  4. Respondents who watch TV were asked: ‘Which TV programmes are you most excited to watch on over the festive period?’ The net response for ‘Doctor Who Christmas Special’ was 16%, ‘Call the Midwife’ was 13%, ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ was 12% and ‘Queen’s Speech’ was 6%
  5. Respondents who watch TV were asked: ‘Thinking about watching live TV and films over the Christmas period, which of the following statements apply?’ The net response for ‘I enjoy watching TV and films with my family’ was 41%, ‘I dislike endless Christmas and boxing day sales adverts’ was 37%, ‘I look forward to Christmas specials’ was 34%, ‘I get fed up with reruns of TV and films I’ve already seen’ was 30%, ‘Watching Christmas TV and films bring the family together’ was 30%, ‘It’s annoying when I fall asleep during a TV show I’ve been wanting to watch’ was 12%, and ‘My family members have argued about what to watch and it can be annoying’ was 5%
  6. See Table one above
  7. Respondents who watch TV were asked: ‘How much TV do you anticipate watching over the entire Christmas period (23rd December – 1st January)?’ The mean response for ‘live’ was ‘27.9 hours’ and for ‘on-demand’ was ‘14.8 hours’. 27.9+14.8 = 42.7 hours
  8. Respondents who watch TV were asked: ‘Which devices do you anticipate watching TV on over the festive period?’  The net response for ‘TV’ was 96%
  9. Respondents who watch TV were asked: ‘This Christmas period, what proportion of the television you will watch do you anticipate watching as a group with friends/family?’ The mean response was ‘39.3%’; the net response for ‘81-90%’ was 5%, ‘91-99%’ was 2% and ‘100%’ was 6%=12%; the net response for ‘0%’ was 8%
  10. Source: Ofcom’s Box Set Britain: UK’s TV and online habits revealed

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