TV Licensing's guide to stress-free Christmas TV

One in five UK households expect to argue about what to watch on television over the festive period according to a TV Licensing study, as the official 2011 Christmas TV schedule goes on sale.

On Christmas Day 2010, the average UK household watched almost eight hours1 (7 hours and 45 minutes) of television and this year viewing time is likely to be no different. To encourage familial cheer and goodwill, TV Licensing has explored people’s festive viewing preferences, and come up with the perfect recipe of TV programmes to keep everyone happy. Results revealed, for example, the ideal amount of time to watch comedy specials on Christmas Day is 60 minutes, while it is 40 minutes for soap operas.

To ensure harmonious TV viewing on Christmas Day, you need:

  • A very large scoop (80 mins) of feature films
  • A generous handful (60 mins) of Christmas comedy specials
  • A large cupful (50 mins) of drama / mini-series
  • A small cupful (40 mins) of soap opera
  • A dollop (30 mins) of documentary / factual viewing
  • A dollop (30 mins) of children’s TV programmes
  • A spoonful (25 mins) of sport
  • A sprinkling (20 mins) of Queen’s Speech

Christmas classics rule the roost for people of all ages. The nation’s favourite Christmas film is, by a narrow margin, ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’, with 15% of people saying it topped their list. ‘Home Alone’ was a close second with 14%, and the 1954 version of ‘White Christmas’ was third (11%). As for Christmas comedy specials, sitcoms from the nineties and early noughties were much-loved, with one in five people saying Only Fools and Horses was their favourite, followed by Morecambe and Wise (12%) and The Royle Family (11%).

Sports programmes divided the sexes most, with just 31% of women saying they would watch sport on Christmas Day, compared to 45% of men. The survey also revealed that men are most likely to be in charge of the remote control over Christmas, with 39% of people selecting Dads, partners and Grandads as the main culprits.

“The coming together of families and friends to watch television on Christmas Day is almost as much of a tradition as opening presents or eating turkey. But, with a packed TV schedule to choose from, it can be difficult to agree on what to watch,” said Farimah Darbyshire, TV Licensing spokesperson. “Everyone in a household will have their own favourite programmes, and it is all about compromise.”

“But whatever you choose to watch on television this Christmas, it is important to be aware of the need to be covered by a valid TV Licence to watch or record programmes at the same time as they are shown on TV.”

“We would always prefer people to pay than risk a fine or prosecution, and we certainly don’t want people to be starting the New Year with a £1,000 fine. We offer a wide range of payment options to help spread the cost and suit people’s needs. These can all be set up quickly and easily online at or by phone.”

While there were some clear winners across the UK, the research also showed that:

  • While Londoners will be the most combative about the small screen, with one in three people in the capital city admitting that they expect to disagree, Welsh households are the most relaxed with just 5% saying that there would be fights over what to watch.
  • Christmas TV isn’t a laughing matter for Scots, with over a quarter stating they will not be watching any comedy, compared to 16% nationally
  • 1 in 4 (23 per cent) of people in Northern Ireland say their all time favourite film is National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation compared to a national average of just 8%. 1 in 5 of people in Wales say their all time favourite film is The Muppet Christmas Carol, compared to just 8 per cent nationally.
  • While old classics Only Fools and Horses and Morecambe and Wise were the nation’s favourites, Londoner’s would rather watch The Office (18%), and in Northern Ireland almost 1 in 5 would most like to watch Gavin and Stacey.

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Source of research: A survey of 1,000 people by third party research house, OnePoll, was conducted between November 25 and December 1, 2011.

1 Data sourced from BARB

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