The Queen’s funeral service in Westminster Abbey was watched by 29.2 million people on television in the UK, according to official audience data.
Despite the enormous interest, the commemoration of Queen Elizabeth II did not meet predictions of becoming the most-watched broadcast in British television history. Less than half the UK population watched the live television broadcast – fewer than the 31 million who watched the climax of England’s Euro 2020 final defeat against Italy.
BBC One’s coverage of Monday’s commemoration events peaked at 19.5 million viewers, BBC Two hit 2 million for its sign language coverage, ITV hit 5.3 million viewers, and Sky News attracted a maximum of 934,000 people. All the channels were offering the same core footage but with different experts and presenters.
The service was also simulcast on dozens of other television channels, which created some unusual juxtapositions. About 170,000 people paid their respects to the Queen by watching her funeral on Sky Sports Main Event – usually the home of live Premier League football.
Channel 5’s decision to show children’s films instead of the funeral resulted in 145,000 people watching The Emoji Movie rather than the Westminster Abbey service.
Television viewing figures are always estimates and exclude the growing number of people who watch major live events through streaming services such as YouTube or the BBC’s iPlayer – or on their mobile phones. Comparing the audiences for different events over time is also a challenge as methodologies change.
The figures were released after a minister said about a quarter of a million people queued to see the Queen’s coffin as it lay in state at Westminster Hall.
Michelle Donelan, the UK culture secretary, said her department was still “crunching the numbers” to calculate how many people had queued for hours in London to view the Queen’s coffin at Westminster Hall, but that she believed the figure to be about 250,000.
Donelan said most British people would view the cost of the Queen’s funeral as “money well spent”, but that she could not put a figure on what that cost was.
When asked on Sky News about the cost of the funeral, she said: “I’m not sure of the exact costings, but as I say, I think the British public would argue that that was money well spent.
“You saw so many thousands out there and I don’t think anybody can suggest that our late monarch didn’t deserve that send-off, given the duty and the selfless service that she committed to over 70 years.” She added that it would be “downright preposterous” to suggest otherwise.
“It was great sense of the community coming together. I always think of our late monarch as the glue that brought society together,” she added.
Donelan described the queue for Westminster Hall as “phenomenal”, as she paid tribute to the volunteers who helped manage and support the proceedings of recent days, including the lying in state.