The 15 most watched shows in ITV’s history

Coronation Street makes the top 15 list three times. Here, Mike (Johnny Briggs) and Ken (William Roache) are tied up in the store cupboard at Freshco during a siege.
Coronation Street makes the top 15 list three times. Here, Mike (Johnny Briggs) and Ken (William Roache) are tied up in the store cupboard at Freshco during a siege.
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As ITV celebrates its 60th birthday today, here’s our list of its 15 highest-rated broadcasts.

60 years on - ITV’s secret history

1. World Cup 98 - England v Argentina (June 30 1998): 23.78 million

Argentina’s defeat of England in the second round of the 1998 football World Cup remains ITV’s single most-watched broadcast to date. The match ended 2-2 and went to penalties, which Argentina won 4-3.

2. FILM: Live And Let Die (January 20 1980): 23.50 million

This was the first showing on UK television for Roger Moore’s debut as James Bond. The film had been released in cinemas in 1973, but did not get its small screen premiere until seven years later.

Gordon Jackson, as butler Hudson and Jean Marsh, as parlour maid Rose Buck in the ITV drama series "Upstairs, Downstairs"

Gordon Jackson, as butler Hudson and Jean Marsh, as parlour maid Rose Buck in the ITV drama series "Upstairs, Downstairs"

3. FILM: Jaws (October 8 1981): 23.25 million

The UK TV premiere of Steven Spielberg’s thriller. It had first appeared in cinemas in 1975.

4. FILM: The Spy Who Loved Me (March 28 1982): 22.90 million

Another James Bond TV premiere, this time for Roger Moore’s third outing as 007. The film had been released in cinemas in 1977.

Simon Cowell, Pete Waterman, Nicki Chapman and Neil Fox, during a press conference at Thames TV in London, as ITV celebrates its 60th anniversary

Simon Cowell, Pete Waterman, Nicki Chapman and Neil Fox, during a press conference at Thames TV in London, as ITV celebrates its 60th anniversary

5. 1967 Royal Variety Performance (November 19 1967): 22.80 million

This annual showbiz spectacular won its largest ever ratings in 1967. The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh were in the audience to watch Dickie Henderson introduce, among others, Lulu, Sandie Shaw, Tommy Cooper, Tom Jones and Bob Hope.

6. FILM: Diamonds Are Forever (March 15 1981): 22.15 million

Not a TV premiere, but another very strong performance for James Bond. This was Sean Connery’s last official film as 007, and had been released in cinemas in 1971. It was the second time it had been shown on ITV; the first was on Christmas Day in 1978.

7. 1965 Royal Variety Performance (November 14 1965): 21.70 million

Among the line-up this year were Shirley Bassey, Peter Cook, Dudley Moore, Peter Sellers, Dusty Springfield, The Dave Clark Five and Tony Bennett.

8. Coronation Street (January 2 1985): 21.40 million

The most-watched episode of ITV’s longest-running soap opera saw Bet Lynch (Julie Goodyear) appointed as landlady of the Rovers Return, after local residents petitioned the pub’s owners to give her the job.

9. 1963 Royal Variety Performance (November 10 1963): 21.20 million

The Beatles’s appearance at this event helped turn the band from a teen sensation into a nationwide phenomenon. Also on the bill were Marlene Dietrich, Eric Sykes, Hattie Jacques, Tommy Steele and Harry Secombe.

= Silver Jubilee Royal Variety Gala (December 4 1977): 21.20 million

1977 was the Queen’s 25th year on the throne, and a number of star-studded events were televised to mark the anniversary. This particular gala replaced the usual Royal Variety Performance, but featured the usual high-profile cast. Among the performers this year were Julie Andrews, the Muppets, Bob Hope, Tommy Cooper and Rudolf Nureyev.

11. The Benny Hill Show (March 14 1979): 20.85 million

One of the comedian’s many one-off programmes for ITV. The Benny Hill Show ran sporadically on ITV between 1957-60, in 1967, and from 1969 to 1989.

12. FILM: You Only Live Twice (November 20 1977): 20.80 million

Even though this James Bond film dated from 1967, it did not receive its UK TV premiere until this date 10 years later. Sean Connery starred as 007.

13. Coronation Street (March 22 1993): 20.73 million

This episode saw Bet Lynch being told her contract at the Rovers Return had been extended for another year, and dealt with the consequences of Gail Platt (Helen Worth) being accused of pushing Carmel Finnan (Catherine Cusack) down a flight of stairs.

14. Sale Of The Century (November 19 1977): 20.60 million

One of ITV’s longest-running game shows, Sale Of The Century was a hit throughout almost its entire run of 1971 to 1983. Nicholas Parsons was host on the show, which saw contestants answering questions to win small sums of money in order to buy a range of bargain prizes.

15. Coronation Street (January 16 1985): 20.60 million

This rather unexceptional episode aired just two weeks after the most-watched Coronation Street ever (see number eight), and saw Gloria Todd (Sue Jenkins) join the staff of the Rovers Return and Terry Duckworth (Nigel Pivaro) plan a party.