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Line Of Duty is most-watched drama series of 21st century so far

Adrian Dunbar, Vicky McClure and Martin Compston on the set of the sixth series of Line of Duty (Liam McBurney/PA)
Adrian Dunbar, Vicky McClure and Martin Compston on the set of the sixth series of Line of Duty (Liam McBurney/PA)

Line Of Duty has become the UK’s most-watched drama series of the 21st century so far, after official ratings showed this year’s season finale had a TV audience of 15.24 million.

This is 80,000 higher than the previous record, which was set by an episode of Heartbeat on ITV in February 2000 which had a TV audience of 15.16 million.

It means the BBC One police thriller is now the highest-rated TV drama series since March 1999, when an episode of ITV’s A Touch Of Frost won an audience of 15.83 million.

(PA Graphics)

Only a tiny number of programmes have managed to attract TV audiences of more than 15 million in the past decade, according to analysis by the PA news agency.

Line Of Duty now shares this honour with The Great British Bake Off (15.9 million in October 2016), EastEnders (16.4 million in February 2010), Gavin & Stacey (17.1 million in December 2019) and The X Factor (17.7 million in December 2010).

The official ratings for Line Of Duty’s final episode, which was broadcast on May 2, have been published by the audience research organisation Barb.

They are consolidated ratings, meaning they include people who recorded and watched a broadcast up to seven days later – the industry standard for measuring TV audiences.

Line Of Duty’s record-breaking ratings means the top 10 most-watched drama series of the century are now evenly split between BBC One and ITV.

The list includes plenty of household favourites, such as Inspector Morse and Doctor Who, though five of the 10 date from either 2000 or 2001.

Here is the top 10 in full, compiled by the PA news agency using Barb data. It includes only drama series, not soap operas, and is based on the highest-rated instance of each programme:

1. Line Of Duty, May 2 2021 (BBC1): 15.24m
2. Heartbeat, February 6 2000 (ITV): 15.16m
3. A Touch Of Frost, January 14 2001 (ITV): 14.69m
4. Bodyguard, September 23 2018 (BBC1): 14.34m
5. Inspector Morse, November 15 2000 (ITV): 13.66m
6. Doctor Who, December 25 2007 (BBC1): 13.31m
7. Sherlock, January 1 2014 (BBC1): 12.72m
8. Downton Abbey, November 6 2011 (ITV): 12.45m
9. Auf Wiedersehen, Pet, April 28 2002 (BBC1): 12.41m
10. The Royal, January 19 2003 (ITV): 11.96m

(The figures include +1/HD where appropriate)

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