Channel 4 beats ITV but BBC1’s election coverage wins the night

David Dimbleby's marathon broadcast drew a peak of 6.6 million viewers while Jeremy Paxman helped Channel 4 best ITV

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Over 4 million people watched the BBC’s general election coverage as the results flowed in on Thursday night, while Channel 4’s ‘alternative election’ coverage beat ITV in the TV audience ratings.

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Presenter David Dimbleby and BBC1 averaged 4.4 million viewers between 10pm and 2am, peaking with 6.6 million as the first exit poll was announced just after 10pm.

Channel 4’s Jeremy Paxman-fronted coverage secured an average of 1.2 million viewers, compared to the 900,000 watching the results on ITV.

Sky News averaged 305,000 people overnight.

C4 and ITV both attracted fewer viewers than in the 2010 election, whereas the BBC’s figures were up by 300,000 viewers on average.

Over 7 million people in total watched the election coverage at its peak just after 10pm, with 2.4 million tuning in to C4, 1.8 million watching ITV and Sky News reaching 395,000 people, according to audience research specialists overnights.tv.

The announcement of the first exit poll drew the highest viewing figures, when its surprise forecast of a Conservative victory led former Lib Dem leader Paddy Ashdown to say he would “eat his hat” if the poll proved to be true.

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The poll did prove broadly accurate however, with the Liberal Democrats and Labour losing out to the Conservatives and the SNP.

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