Nearly 14 million viewers stayed up until around 1am last night to see the conclusion to England’s opening World Cup match against Italy, according to overnight figures.
An audience of 13.7 million, an incredible 85.9% share, was still watching when the whistle blew an hour and 45 minutes plus stoppage time after the 11pm kick-off on BBC1, with England fans hoping in vain that Roy Hodgson’s side could come back from 2-1 down in the dying minutes.
BBC1’s full coverage between 10:20pm and 1:30am averaged 11.51m (68.4%), peaking with 15.65m (78.5%) immediately after Daniel Sturridge equalised for England, side-footing in Wayne Rooney’s cross.
Despite the eventual loss, England held their own in the contest and the viewing figures are particularly impressive given the late scheduling. England’s first match of the 2010 World Cup against the USA averaged 16.1m and peaked with 20.1m (72.7%) at the much earlier time of 9:15pm on Saturday 12 June.
This year’s tournament opened on Thursday with hosts Brazil’s controversial victory over Croatia drawing a peak audience of 12.61m (52.9%) at 9:30pm, with ITV’s full coverage, from 7 to 11:15pm, averaging 8.20m (40.3%) and the match itself over 11 million.
England’s next opponents are Uruguay on Thursday, when an 8pm kick-off and the now crucial nature of the match are likely to draw another huge audience.