Primetime Saturday night crowd-pleasers were outgunned by late-night cycling on Tuesday as more people stayed up to watch Laura Trott and Jason Kenny’s Olympic gold medal triumphs than had tuned in for last year’s Strictly Come Dancing or X Factor finals.
Between 10:45pm and 11pm an average of 10.88 million viewers watched BBC1’s nail-biting coverage of Jason Kenny’s Keirin final – peaking at 11.1m at the moment he crossed the finish line in front, equalling Sir Chris Hoy’s Team GB record of six golds.
Earlier in the evening, between 9pm and 9:45pm, just shy of 10 million watched Kenny’s fiance Laura Trott’s bid for the Omnium title, with a peak of 10.3m glued to the screen as she became Britain’s most successful female Olympian with her fourth gold.
Last autumn, by comparison, the grand final of BBC1’s Saturday night behemoth Strictly averaged 10.2m viewers, while the conclusion to ITV’s own talent show The X Factor managed just 5.7m.
Overall, BBC1’s Olympics coverage averaged 8.58m between 7pm and 11:25pm, a share of more than 44% of the total available viewing.
The over-running of the cycling due to two near-disqualifications saw a long delay for those waiting for BBC1’s 10pm News bulletin, which finally started at 11:25pm. However, it was still watched by a healthy average of 3.37m viewers, a share of 30%.
This is not the latest the 10pm news has ever aired – during the BBC’s London 2012 Olympics closing ceremony the bulletin aired after midnight.
The extended coverage from Rio also saw Newsnight delayed, moving from its scheduled slot of 10:45pm to 11:50pm on BBC2.
The BBC always tries not to schedule the current affairs programme at the same time as the main late night news bulletin, although the Corporation insisted that there is no formal agreement in place between the two programmes for avoiding a clash.
The exciting Olympics coverage meant slim pickings for rival channels, with ITV’s biggest success of the night being the hour-long Emmerdale episode, which averaged 3.9m between 7pm and 8pm on the main ITV channel – a share of 21.6% – with a further 875,000 viewers watching Emmerdale on ITV HD at the same time.