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BBC wins ratings battle as Royal wedding becomes most watched TV event of the year

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The BBC decisively won the ratings battle against ITV for its coverage of the Royal wedding, with nearly four times the number of viewers during at the peak.

In the corporation’s most watched television event of the year, some 13.1 million people tuned in at 1pm to watch Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, leave St George’s Chapel and take a tour of Windsor for the first time as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

Anchored by Kirsty Young, Huw Edwards and Dermot O’Leary, the BBC audience was nearly four times as great as ITVs, where viewing figures peaked at 3.6 million at 2pm, when the BBC broadcast ended.

Over both channels the average combined viewing figures of 11 million, in contrast to the FA Cup which averaged 6.7 million viewers and peaked at 8.7 million

The wedding was also the most watched event of the year so far across all channels, eclipsing the first episode of ITV’s Britain’s Got Talent previously which peaked at 9.6 million.

Despite an enthusiastic performance from Julie Etchingham and Phillip Schofield in which at one point they turned their backs to the camera to wave at the Royal car, ITV averaged just 2.5 million viewers (18.6 per cent share) between 9.25am and 3pm.

Charlotte Moore, director of BBC content, said: “BBC1 brought the nation together in their millions for a super Saturday to remember, combining the royal wedding, with a peak audience of 13.1 million viewers, and the FA Cup Final.”

The wedding also sparked enormous interested across social media, with 3.4 million messages sent during the ceremony, including a flurry of 40,000 tweets-a-minute during US bishop Michael Curry’simpassioned address.

Cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason, was the second most tweeted about moment, with 28,000 comments sent regarding his performance. His album also rose to the top of the Amazon’s classical album charts on Sunday.

And, the moment that Prince Harry and Meghan exchanged vows and were pronounced as husband and wife, tweets about the wedding rose to 27,000 tweets per minute.

Elsewhere, Sky News, Sky One and BBC News’ programmes were each seen by averages of fewer than 500,000 viewers.

The Sky coverage was notable for Kay Burley, lifting a nine-year-old girl over the security barrier, nearly dropped her, then declined to put her back, saying she was “too heavy” to do it again.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding in 2011 enjoyed a higher combined audience of 17.6 million, according to consolidated figures, but that number included people watching on catch-up. 

The wedding of The Prince of Wales and Lady Diana Spencer wedding was watched by more than 28 million in 1981.

Overall the BBC’s coverage of Saturday’s wedding attracted an average of 8.7 million viewers (64 per cent share), between 9am and 2pm.

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