Secrets and Lies aired on UKTV's Watch channel.
Secrets and Lies aired on UKTV’s Watch channel.
Multi-channel broadcaster UKTV is celebrating a year of record-breaking viewing after data compiled by BARB confirmed its family of channels are now “neck and neck” with Sky’s and Channel 5’s bundles of channels.

UKTV’s channels include Freeview favourites Drama, Dave and Really, pay channels Watch, Gold, Alibi, and on demand service UKTV Play.

According to BARB’s data, the channels were seen by 5.27% of the total UK audience last year – up from 5.08% in 2014 and 30% up on 2010’s figure of 3.99%.

Over Christmas the network’s channels achieved a higher audience share than Channel 5’s portfolio with 6.63% versus 5.9% – the best festive period in the company’s history.

UKTV Play, which has seen a 26% increase in views year on year and recently expanded to Amazon’s Fire TV platform, also had “a very successful” Christmas with a 66% increase in app downloads in December versus November.

Jan Gooze-Zijl, UKTV’s chief financial and operations officer, credited the growth in audience numbers to the firm’s decision to invest in a range of original comedy, factual and lifestyle shows as well as major US drama acquisitions such as the Ryan Phillippe crime drama Secrets and Lies.

Other recent highlights include David Hasselhoff’s Hoff the Record, Storage Hunters UK, Bob Monkhouse: Million Joke Man and comedy gameshow Taskmaster which is fronted by comedians Greg Davies and Alex Horne.

The move into original content has been backed by UKTV shareholders BBC Worldwide and Scripps Network.

Gooze-Zijl commented: “UKTV’s success is because we have taken risks and experimented with our content mix, ensuring viewers needs are at the heart of everything we do.

“For the first time in our history we are on a par with both Sky and Channel 5’s full portfolios which is testament to the hard work of all 270 staff members based here in Hammersmith.”

Over the past year UKTV expanded its carriage deal with BT’s TV service and launched its popular Yesterday, Drama and Really channels on subscription-free satellite service, Freesat.

The move brings the channels to an additional 4m potential viewers, creating the potential for further audience growth in 2016.