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Doctor Blake most finished series on BBC One - a bigger 'hit' than Bodyguard and Line of Duty

Actor Craig McLachlan in The Doctor Blake Mysteries
Actor Craig McLachlan in The Doctor Blake Mysteries

Mammoth budgets, A-list actors and nail-biting plot twists are now prerequisites for a binge-worthy television series.

But in the battle for eyeballs, the BBC has found an unlikely champion in an Australian period drama fronted by a former soap star.

The Doctor Blake Mysteries - starring former Neighbours heart-throb Craig McLachlan - has emerged as the most finished series on BBC One since 2018.

The ABC Australia drama that the BBC started airing in 2013 beat Jed Mercurio dramas Bodyguard and Line of Duty, which came in second and third place respectively.

Media consultancy Enders Analysis reached the conclusion by examining the series that viewers actually complete after tuning into the first episode.

Tom Harrington, a senior TV analyst at Enders who co-wrote the report, said despite being an episodic drama aired in the afternoon, the rate at which viewers continued watching Doctor Blake proved its quality compared with primetime dramas with much bigger budgets.

The study is based on analysis of viewing data of British broadcasters from BARB, an industry body that measures who, when and how people are watching TV.

It takes into account TV series watched live for the first eight months of 2018, as well as those viewed both live and through on-demand platforms from August 2018 until now.

ITV's Doc Martin starring Martin Clunes
ITV's Doc Martin starring Martin Clunes

Measuring a series by how many people complete them, instead of by overall viewing, offers a better comparison, according to Enders. Doing so strips away the impact of "promotion, prominence, competition" and the quality of a broadcaster's on-demand technology.

ITV was the channel with the highest average completion of UK scripted shows at 82.1pc over the past two years, compared with BBC One at 77.6pc, the data showed.

Sitcom Bad Move starring comedian Jack Dee and Cornish drama Doc Martin featuring Martin Clunes were the top two ITV series viewers stuck with to the very last episode.

Mr Harrington said: "It was entirely unsurprising seeing the ITV numbers to me because when I think of ITV, I think of very watchable, very well-made shows.

"They do [a high number] of true crime dramas, which have great production and great actors. They are making another Yorkshire Ripper drama because they just work - they know they can get 8m people watching the whole thing."

All Creatures Great and Small has been a big hit for Channel 5
All Creatures Great and Small has been a big hit for Channel 5

Spy drama Homeland proved the most sticky series for Channel 4, while the recently aired All Creatures Great and Small was the stand-out performer for Channel 5.

Sky, which has commissioned 80 original series for this year, found the American police series Hawaii Five-0 was the most completed series on Sky One, while Chernobyl, the biggest BAFTA-Winning series in history, performed best on Sky Atlantic.

Scripted dramas have become a key battleground for streaming subscribers, with US streaming giants Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney spending billions of dollars on original content.

British broadcasters have also been sharpening their focus on creating more original TV shows in a bid to stave off the threat posed by their deep-pocketed American rivals.