Mr Bates vs the Post Office is ITV's best watched drama for three years

Toby Jones, centre, stars as Alan Bates in ITV's series dramatising the Horizon IT scandal
Toby Jones, centre, stars as Alan Bates in ITV's series dramatising the Horizon IT scandal - ITV/Shutterstock/Shutterstock

ITV’s Mr Bates vs the Post Office has become the channel’s best new drama for three years after the first episode was watched by 9.2 million viewers.

The four-part series, which also includes the documentary on the Horizon IT scandal, which saw village sub-postmasters prosecuted over mysterious financial losses, has pulled in overall viewing figures of 14.8 million.

It is ITV’s most popular drama since the Pembrokeshire Murders was aired in January 2021.

Written by Gwyneth Hughes and directed by James Strong, the series was produced by Chris Clough for Little Gem and ITV Studios.

It was shown on ITV from Jan 1-4 and was immediately released in full on ITVX on the same date.

The four-part series stars Toby Jones as Alan Bates along with a cast that includes Will Mellor, Monica Dolan and Julie Hesmondhalgh.

On ITVX alone, the series was streamed 12.3 million times in eight days.

Kevin Lygo, the managing director for media and entertainment at ITV, said: “The unwavering success of Mr Bates vs The Post Office demonstrates the undeniable power of TV, particularly public service broadcasting.

“Aside from it being a ratings hit, dramatising the story with such a high calibre of British actors has reignited the campaign for justice nearly 25 years on, for a group of ordinary people – and the entire nation is behind them.”

Between Jan 1 and Jan 8, ITVX had 70.1 million streams, which is the best ever start to the year  - up on 2023 by 39 per cent.

Mr Bates vs The Post Office helped ITV1 to enjoy the best start of the year for nearly a decade with an all-time share of 18.4 per cent for the first eight days of the year.

It was also the most watched programme across all channels with 3.9 million viewers, beating The Tourist on BBC1 (2.2 million), and retained its live audience for four consecutive nights.

Polly Hill, the head of drama at ITV, said: “We commissioned this drama because it was a story that demanded to be told.

“Like everyone watching the show, I couldn’t believe what had happened. We all just wanted the drama to help get that story heard by as many people as we could.

“We are all proud and overwhelmed by the power our drama has had. Alan, Jo, Lee, Jess and every sub-postmaster and sub-postmistress are being heard now, and it looks like they will finally get the justice they deserve.

Broaden your horizons with award-winning British journalism. Try The Telegraph free for 1 month, then enjoy 1 year for just $9 with our US-exclusive offer.