In Brief

Most watched UK TV broadcasts ever: from Boris’s lockdown address to Princess Diana’s wedding

Televised speech to nation racked up more than 27 million viewers, making it the eighth most watched broadcast in UK history

Monday’s televised announcement by Prime Minister Boris Johnson - in which he announced strict new measures to combat the coronavirus outbreak - has become one of the most watched TV broadcasts in UK history.

The statement, the first prime ministerial address of its kind in the UK since Tony Blair announced Britain’s involvement in the invasion of Iraq in 2003, attracted a total audience of 27.1 million viewers across a number of channels, according to the BBC.

“That makes it the most watched broadcast for years,” says the broadcaster.

The figures make it the eighth most watched UK broadcast in history, behind such events as the 1970 FA Cup final replay between Chelsea and Leeds United, and the Apollo 13 splashdown the same year. 

The 1966 World Cup final between England and West Germany is the record holder for the nation’s most watched broadcast, with a combined audience of 32.3 million across the BBC and ITV – though The Guardian notes that “measurement methods were much less sophisticated” in that era.

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In second place is the 1997 funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales, which drew a peak television audience of 32.10 million.

However, the paper also notes that it is “possible that the final official viewing figures, compiled over the course of the next four weeks, could push it close” to the 1966 final, as catch-up and online viewings of the speech are thought not to have been counted yet.

Here is the current list of the most-watched broadcasts in UK history:

 

 EventDateViewers
11966 Fifa World Cup final: England vs. West Germany30 Jul 196632.30m
2Funeral of Princess Diana6 Sep 199732.10m
3Royal Family (documentary)21 Jun 196930.69m
4Apollo 13 splashdown17 Apr 197028.60m
51970 FA Cup final replay: Chelsea vs. Leeds United29 Apr 197028.49m
6Wedding of Charles and Diana29 Jul 198128.40m
7Wedding of Princess Anne and Mark Phillips14 Nov 197327.60m
8Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s statement on Covid-1923 Mar 202027.10m
92012 London Games closing ceremony12 Aug 201224.46m
102012 London Games opening ceremony27 Jul 201224.24m

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