The Irish rugby team is officially more popular than The X Factor. Ireland's Rugby World Cup game against Italy on Sunday was the most-watched programme ever on TV3, beating a record held by the 2010 final of the Simon Cowell entertainment show.
An average of 956,600 viewers watched Ireland beat Italy on TV3 and secure a place in the quarter finals, according to the ratings compiled by TAM Ireland and Nielsen.
This eclipsed the 930,500 people who watched Matt Cardle beat Rebecca Ferguson and One Direction into second and third place respectively on The X Factor in December 2010.
Some 70 per cent of people watching television yesterday afternoon were tuned into the Ireland game, which reached 1.375 million people in total. The audience peaked at 1.184 million viewers.
TV3's commercial director Pat Kiely had predicted before the tournament began that the channel would reach its highest-ever audience. The broadcaster now hopes to set a fresh record again next Sunday when Ireland take on France in the final pool game.
Its weekend viewing figures were also swelled by England’s defeat to Australia, which attracted an average audience of 685,800 viewers.
Interest in Ireland’s matches has been on an upward curve since the tournament began on September 18th. An average of 586,000 people watched Ireland’s first pool game against Canada, while the second game against Romania attracted an average of 758,800.
TV3 Group has the rights to show all 48 matches in the tournament, which concludes on October 31st.