England’s World Cup final win hit peak 4.5 million audience on Channel 4
Epic victory over New Zealand clashed with Wimbledon final and British Grand Prix
A peak audience of 4.5 million watched England’s World Cup final win over New Zealand. Photograph: Michael Steele/Getty
England’s cricket World Cup victory attracted a peak TV audience of 4.5 million people on Channel 4, as live international cricket returned to free-to-air television for the first time in 14 years.
The figures peaked during the deciding super over when a combined total of 8 million were watching on Channel 4 or Sky’s pay-TV channels. Around half that number tuned in for the entire match.
The viewing figures were substantially smaller than those for England’s run to the semi-finals of the women’s football World Cup and coverage of Wimbledon on the BBC, raising concerns that cricket has lost out to other sports in the time since it was last on free-to-air TV.
Almost all English cricket matches are now set to return behind Sky’s paywall for the foreseeable future meaning any new fans won over by Ben Stokes’s extraordinary batting performance will have to pay for a subscription if they want to watch this summer’s Ashes series against Australia.
Sky, which has televised all English cricket matches since 2005 in return for substantial investment in the sport, agreed to let Channel 4 show the final after the home team won their place in it.
The pay-TV service, which has won plaudits for its presentation of the sport, faced sustained pressure in recent weeks over low viewing figures for World Cup matches. England’s hosting of the tournament had been heralded as a great chance for the sport to create a new generation of fans.
Cricket’s return to free-to-air television was then hampered by its clash with both Wimbledon and the Formula One British Grand Prix. Channel 4 was forced to move its live cricket coverage to More4 for much of the afternoon to make way for the motor racing, losing a substantial number of viewers in the process.
The BBC’s parallel coverage of the Wimbledon men’s singles final between Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic attracted a peak audience of 9.6 million and an average of 6 million on BBC One, beating England’s victory in the cricket on both metrics.
The official viewing figures, provided by overnights.tv, do not include people watching online streams of the match or those watching in pubs or other public spaces.
Channel 4, which held the free-to-air rights for the cricket World Cup, has itself faced criticism after putting some highlights packages on air after midnight.
The England and Wales Cricket Board pointed out that while the majority of international matches would remain on Sky, from next year the BBC has the rights to show two live men’s Twenty20 matches a year. - Guardian