26.5 million tune in to watch England’s World Cup 2018 semi-final heartbreak on ITV

40 per cent of the UK population was tuned into the England game at its peak, making it the highest recorded audience since the London 2012 Closing Ceremony

(Getty)

26.5 million viewers tuned in to watch England’s World Cup 2018 semi-final match on ITV according to industry audience data.

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That incredible peak figure was reached around 9.30pm, as fans across the country joined together to support Gareth Southgate’s England through extra-time – and commiserate following heartbreaking defeat at the hands of Croatia.

It is the highest peak audience recorded since the London 2012 Closing Ceremony, with roughly 40 per cent of the whole population of the UK at one point tuned into the football.

According to TV research, an average of 24.2 million viewers watched the whole game, with 81 per cent of everyone watching TV at that time tuned into the football.

However, the actual audience is estimated to be far higher, as these figures only include those viewers watching at home rather than in public venues.

ITV reports that a further 4.3 million viewers were watching online via ITV Hub, the biggest ever live audience for the broadcaster’s online streaming service.

ITV’s post-match coverage proved particularly heated, with pundits Roy Keane and Ian Wright clashing over England’s pre-game expectations. “We were happy! You weren’t happy for us being happy at that time,” Wright told Keane.

The viewing figures also mean that ITV has bagged the two most-watched games of the tournament, the other being England’s penalty shootout win over Colombia, watched by a peak audience of 23.6 million.

But England’s incredible run in the World Cup in Russia has seen huge audiences on both ITV and the BBC. England’s quarter-final victory against Sweden on a hot Saturday afternoon was watched by a peak audience of 19.64 million viewers on the BBC.

The BBC’s World Cup host Gary Lineker tweeted earlier in the tournament that he didn’t care whether ITV or the BBC came out on top, saying that he was “absolutely thrilled that football and England are delivering such vast audiences” on both channels.

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ITV will broadcast England’s third place play-off match against Belgium on Saturday, while both the BBC and ITV will have live coverage of the World Cup 2018 final.