How All Creatures Great and Small and Our Yorkshire Farm helped Channel 5 to reach a 'tipping point'

Yorkshire television shows have been key to creating a “tipping point” of success for a British broadcaster this year, according to one of the station’s commissioning editors.

Daniel Pearl has spoken about the strength of wholesome shows made in the region which have helped a boom in viewers on Channel 5.

Our Yorkshire Farm, a show which Mr Pearl oversees, and the new All Creatures Great and Small, have been the stand-outs.

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He said: “I think from the very beginning of the pandemic we made a decision that we weren’t going to chase stories specifically about the pandemic. We have the news and we have Jeremy Vine and current affairs shows, but beyond that we made a decision that we really wanted to provide an alternative to the other channels.

Picture: Channel 5/Playground.

“At peak time that was about providing comfort and joy and happiness. Things that could sustain us through this kind of bleak period.”

He added: “We get it right when we get the tone of the nation right. It sounds a bit pompous, really, but it is. You sort of work out what people want to watch when they get home from work or school or whatever and at eight o’clock at night, how they’re feeling.”

Our Yorkshire Farm has since 2018 followed Amanda and Clive Owen, their nine children and their flock of 1,000 sheep at Ravenseat Farm, North Yorkshire.

The family and their way of life were originally a case study in New Lives in the Wild in 2015, fronted by Ben Fogle.

Picture: Channel 5/Playground

Mr Pearl said: “The family was just extraordinary.

“We went back and decided to make quite a brave decision to make a few programmes made just on the farm.

“This is back in 2018 and it was the highest rated factual show of the year. “

He continued: “This year, the pandemic episode, which was the one they shot themselves, during quarantine, was the highest rated single factual show ever on Channel 5. Who would have thought that a Yorkshire farming family in the north Dales would be the highest factual show ever?

“It’s quite astonishing. They’re amazing people and it’s an amazing place."

The episode eventually reached nearly four million viewers, said Mr Pearl, and the third series got an average of three million viewers, reaching a total of 10m people.

All Creatures, meanwhile, became highest-rated original commission in the broadcaster’s history - consolidating at 4.7 million viewers with an additional million tuning in for the Sunday repeat - and has already been picked up for a second series. It will also air on America’s PBS channel next year.

“It was one of those shows that looked so like as if it should succeed. It had everything,” Mr Pearl said.

“When you’re looking for uplifting, distinctive British programming, we found over the years that Yorkshire provides that in a way that almost nowhere in the UK, let’s say, does. It’s kind of an alchemy, really, but I’ve thought about it a lot: I think it comes down in the end to the fact that Yorkshire’s such a distinctive place.

"The way I describe it is basically a country within a country. It has its own geographical boundaries, it has its own distinct id it has a way of life, it has beauty in the countryside. It has a bit of everything, really - and it’s also big. I think people forget just how big Yorkshire is.”

Channel 5 has found a niche with shows made in Yorkshire over recent years.

These include the Yorkshire Vet, which follows the working lives of Julian Norton and Peter Wright - the former colleague of Alf Wight, aka James Herriot - in North Yorkshire.

Various shows have been made at Cannon Hall Farm in Barnsley, including this This Week on the Farm with former Blue Peter presenter Helen Skelton and Escape to the Country star Jules Hudson, following the Nicholson brothers.

A number of the characters from a range of Channel 5’s shows have appeared across the Christmas television schedule, including Our Big Yorkshire Christmas.

Mr Pearl added: “It’s been fortuitous, we haven’t necessarily gone out and said ‘We need programmes on Yorkshire’, but we’ve identified programmes which are set in Yorkshire and they’ve done well.”

This has allowed the broadcaster to stake a new claim in the landscape of terrestrial television, with its top two shows competing with ITV and BBC numbers.

Mr Pearl said: “I think everyone would say Channel 5’s reached a tipping point in terms of people’s perceptions of the channel. We are more than aware that people have a view of Channel 5 over the years which is very, very different from what it is right now.”