Sporting fixtures dominate top 20 most-watched TV programmes of 2017

‘Late Late Toy Show’ leads way with 1.35m viewers while all entries are RTÉ shows

Adam and Kayla Burke from Middleton, Co. Cork, are reunited on air with their military father, Graham Burke who was stationed in Mali. Video: RTE/The Late Late Toy Show

Irish adults watched television for an average of three hours and 13 minutes a day in 2017, a year in which the Late Late Toy Show again topped the list of the most-watched programmes and sport proved its strength for attracting mass audiences.

Figures from industry body TAM Ireland and research firm Nielsen show that sporting fixtures accounted for 11 of the top 20 programmes on Irish television, with the All-Ireland senior football final between Dublin and Mayo on RTÉ2 second on the overall list with 1.14 million viewers.

The Toy Show's consolidated audience of 1.35 million on RTÉ One, a figure that includes viewers who watched it back within seven days, was lower than it has been in recent years, while the All-Ireland football final pulled in a larger audience than usual.

Enya Allen (4) from Navan and Lexi Byrne (4) from Carlow in preparation for the ‘Late Late Toy Show’. File photograph: Andres Poveda

The second leg of the Republic of Ireland World Cup soccer playoff against Denmark was third with almost 1.04 million viewers. The All-Ireland senior hurling final between Galway and Waterford was fourth with 916,500 viewers, while the Republic of Ireland’s World Cup qualifier against Wales was fifth with 866,100 viewers. All were broadcast on RTÉ2.


In sixth place, was the RTÉ Nine O'Clock News on the Sunday night before Storm Ophelia hit Ireland, which was broadcast not long after the Status Red warning was extended across the State.

This attracted an average audience of 845,700 people across the whole bulletin, putting it well ahead of the next most watched news programme in 2016, the 9pm bulletin on the Saturday of the election count, which attracted 721,000 viewers. RTÉ's Six-One and One O'Clock news bulletins were in 13th and 15th place in the list respectively.

RTÉ One and RTÉ2 once again account for all 20 programmes on the list, a dominance that has been criticised by TV3 Group managing director Pat Kiely.

However, four of the top 20 last year were Six Nations matches (in seventh, eighth, ninth and 20th place). The rugby tournament is switching to TV3 this year under a four-year deal, all but guaranteeing that the list for 2018 and subsequent years will not be exclusively RTÉ programmes.

The other sport entries on the list were the Kerry versus Mayo All-Ireland senior football semi-final, which was 12th, the Dublin versus Tyrone semi-final, which was 18th, and the World Cup qualifier between the Republic of Ireland and Serbia, which was 19th.

Mrs Brown's Boys CSI: Mammy and Mrs Brown's Boys: Mammy's Mummy were at number 10 and 11 in the list, with 753,200 and 731,700 viewers respectively, which was up on Mrs Brown's entries in the 2016 most-watched list.

Country music hit

Room to Improve was 14th, with its most popular episode attracting an audience of 702,500, while the Late Late Show itself was 16th, with its most-watched episode – the country music special – bringing in a consolidated audience of 690,400.

Sunday night entertainment show Dancing with the Stars was a new entry in the list in 2017, securing 17th place with an audience of 663,900 for its most-watched show.

TAM Ireland said the average adult watched audio-visual content for just under four hours a day – 3 hours and 55 minutes to be precise – with television sets accounting for 83 per cent of this time and 17 per cent relating to viewing on other devices such as laptops, smartphones and tablets. These numbers have been stable in recent years, it said.

“It’s fantastic to see the power that television continues to have in grabbing the nation’s attention,” said TAM Ireland chief executive Jill McGrath.

“It seems that the more choice consumers have on TV the more they watch. TV dominates as a medium and is the driver of so many conversations on social media that it truly is the super medium.”

The top 20 most-watched programmes on Irish television in 2017

1. The Late Late Toy Show 1,345,700

2. The Sunday Game Live (Dublin v Mayo, Senior Football Final) 1,141,200

3. World Cup playoff second leg Republic of Ireland V Denmark 1,038,600

4. The Sunday Game Live (Galway v Waterford, Senior Hurling Final) 916,500

5. World Cup qualifier (Wales v Republic of Ireland) 866,100

6. RTÉ News: Nine O’Clock (Ophelia) 845,700

7. Six Nations: Ireland v France (826,400)

8. Six Nations: Wales v Ireland (818,300)

9. Six Nations: Ireland v England (753,200)

10. Mrs Brown’s Boys CSI:Mammy (753,200)

11. Mrs Brown’s Boys Mammy’s Mummy (731,700)

12. The Sunday Game Live (Senior Football Semi-Final Kerry v Mayo) (729,600)

13. RTÉ News: Six One (717,400)

14. Room to Improve (702,500)

15. RTE News: One O’Clock (698,000)

16. The Late Late Show (Country special) (690,400)

17. Dancing with the Stars (663,900)

18. The Sunday Game Live (Senior Football Semi-Final Dublin v Tyrone) (663,400)

19. World Cup qualifier: Republic of Ireland v Serbia (661,800)

20. Six Nations: Scotland v Ireland (650,200)

Laura Slattery

Laura Slattery

Laura Slattery is an Irish Times journalist writing about media, advertising and other business topics