Euro 2020 final attracts estimated 31 million TV audience in UK

Coverage of England v Italy match watched by more viewers than any programme since 1997 Diana funeral

England’s Euro 2020 final defeat to Italy was one of the most-watched moments in British television history, attracting a combined peak audience of 31 million viewers across both BBC and ITV, with many millions more watching on streaming services.

The majority of viewers chose to watch the BBC’s coverage of the match, according to early overnight viewing figures showing that its Gary Lineker-fronted coverage peaked at 25 million viewers when the match went to penalties, although ITV still contributed 6 million viewers to the peak audience.

The figures are estimates produced by the ratings agency Barb and are based on the viewing habits of thousands of households with measuring devices attached to their television set.

They do not include people watching in public spaces such as pubs, or the millions of people who chose to watch the match through an online stream, rather than as a television broadcast. The BBC said there had been 6.9m requests to access its iPlayer stream of the match, while ITV said its Hub service had received 4.2m requests. Although these figures are not independently verified and will include some of the same people refreshing the video livestream, they suggest the real audience was far higher than the headline figures suggest.

Research methodologies have changed substantially over the decades, making it hard to compare modern viewing figures with past audiences. When the viewing figures are finalised next month, the Euro 2020 final could nudge even closer to the highest-ever UK recorded television audience, still held by the 1966 World Cup final, which was watched by an estimated 32.3 million people.

But by any measure, Sunday’s match was the largest recorded television audience in the UK since the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales in 1997. It also attracted more people than Boris Johnson’s March 2020 announcement that the UK was going into lockdown.

Yet while about half the UK’s population watched some of the England match on Sunday night, with many more listening to radio commentary or following online, some Britons did look elsewhere during the football.

Love Island received a lower-than-average but still surprisingly healthy 556,000 viewers on ITV2, while Channel 4 attracted 404,000 viewers who decided they would prefer to avoid the sport and instead settle in for an evening watching something more relaxing – a repeat of an episode of Scotland’s Coastal Railways with Julie Walters.


Jim Waterson Media editor

The GuardianTramp

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